I picked up some gear to prep my bike for winter this year. So far, I'm extremely happy with all of it.
I rode with them last winter, too, but was really struck by how well they worked during yesterday's snow/ice hootenanny. Roads and pathways were often sheer ice, especially on the steeper portions of hills. My studded tires gave me perfect traction, riding up hills that had cars spinning their tires.
I actually stopped for about half an hour to help push cars to help them get up the ice. Then I got back on my bike and rode up the hill faster than they could manage. Well worth the price for these tires.
The tires I got are the Schwalbe Snow Stud 700 x 38 Wire Tire from MEC. $65/tire. Totally worth it. The studs are placed along the sides of the tire a bit, so you can ride on pavement if needed, without damaging the studs. There are more expensive tires, with bigger knobs and more studs, but these have served me well.
Pedro's Ice Wax 2.0
One of the big problems with riding in freezing temperatures (after staying warm and getting traction), especially with falling or blowing snow, is that ice builds up on the derailleur and chain. This makes it difficult (or impossible) to change gears, and can even make it hard to pedal at all.
(before using Pedro's Ice Wax lube)
I picked up a bottle of Ice Wax lube on a whim from MEC, thinking I'd try it out. I didn't put much thought into it, and didn't think it'd make a big difference. It goes on as a thick, milky liquid and then dries invisible. It's tacky to the touch. I thought it'd pick up all kinds of road grime as a result, but after switching to the wax lube, I hadn't needed to clean my drivetrain for 3 weeks (I used to clean it every weekend using normal oil lube) and it's still looking spotless.
Yesterday's Big Storm gave me a chance to see how the wax lube worked under less than dry conditions. It worked perfectly. I was able to shift gears in conditions that would have forced me to stop and chip ice away previously. Nothing stuck to the chain, and the drivetrain stayed clear. I was amazed. Big fan of the ice wax now.
I'd also picked up some mixed stuff to improve visibility - it's dark when winter riding, and I don't want to get hit by a driver that hasn't seen me. I grabbed a reflective vest - this was difficult for me. I'm now That Guy. The guy with the reflective vest.
Whatever. It glows like fracking Chernobyl. If you can't see me while I'm wearing this, you have no business being on the road. I got the black and white version, rather than the construction-orange version. Despite that, drivers seemed to think I was some kind of official Stuck Car Director, seeing me in a vest helping to push their cars. No. I'm just a guy. A guy on a bike. Helping you push your car on the ice because you didn't think you needed snow tires.
The Planet Bike Blaze 2 Watt headlight is really great. Waaaay brighter than the BLT Firewire 4.0 I had been using, for less than half the price. Extremely bright. And the strobe mode makes me highly visible to oncoming traffic. Now, to get a similarly awesome light to replace my old taillight.
I also picked up some FootHuggers fleece gear during the Stampede this year. I grabbed a tuque, some knee-high socks, and a headband. The fleece material makes them much more comfortable, and they're very warm.
I may pick up a set of Bar Mitts to install on my bike - they're made out of neoprene and are completely windproof. They mount right on the handlebars, and you slide your gloves inside to hold the bars. Sounds like a fantastic idea, and would definitely help keep the fingers warm when riding in -30ËšC.
This is in addition to the other gear I use for winter riding...