1. Good set of street tires.
OK, what's a good tire? Start with a tire that is appropriate for the road surface. When you are commuting by bike in a large city, like here in Chicago, you want a fairly smooth tire. Yes, even in winter. A tire with a tread made for pavement will give you better control, and cut down on rolling resistance. Knobby and studded tires may give you some advantage in a layer of snow, but street tires are your friend in most riding conditions (deflate tires slightly to get better traction in wet conditions).
All tires are not created equal. The best tires use special compounds that provide better r0ad grip, and thoughtfully designed treads that channel water away to keep you from hydroplaning in wet conditions. Some of the best tires also give you a high degree of flat protection. This is especially important in winter, when fixing a flat on the curbside could quickly go from inconvenient to dangerous.
Here are examples of a couple tires we really like:
SCHWALBE Marathon Plus ($46/ea) has a tough puncture-resistant band that does not compromise your ride, and a nice, flexible compound that further resists punctures, and gives you good grip on the road surface. Bonus: reflective sidewalls increase your visibility to other road users.
CONTINENTAL Contact series tires ($35-37/ea) offer a choice of good city treads combined with excellent puncture-resistance.
2. Full set of fenders.
Yes, they're a bit geeky, but not as geeky as a black mud streak running up your butt and back. Quick release fenders that attach to your seatpost offer some protection, but they wiggle out of position, and can't compare to the real thing. Full fenders, made out of lightweight plastic, provide maximum coverage, protecting your chest and face from front-tire spatter, and your back from the afore-mentioned skunk streak. They also protect you bike's drivetrain and frame against excessive build-up of winter gunk (it will build up anyway, why make it worse?). They attach to eyelets on your bike with steel struts, and will not easily shift out of position. We like SKS fenders (about $45 plus installation), because they come in an array of sizes to match your tires, they are durable, and come in a very elegant silver with pinstripes (these will, sadly, not be visible under a layer of winter mud, but you know they're there).
Blinking front and rear lights. The more the merrier. We offer a wide variety of these at prices starting at well under $20. Put them on you, your helmet and your bike.
Reflective bands: chose from legbands, sashes, reflective stick-on tape, and sidewalls on tires.
Headlamp. Very useful if you ride where there is limited street illumination, like Chicago's lakefront, or if you have a propensity for cutting through alleys. PRINCETON TECH EOS Headlamp ($55) is a great, moderately priced, waterproof commuter light, offering 25 lumens with standard AAA batteries. A more premium LIGHT & MOTION Vega ($210). This one gives you a whopping 85 lumens with a rechargeable NiMH battery.
Please don't leave home without it. Purchase a bottle of chain lubricant made specifically for bicycles (for heaven's sake, please don't use WD40 or anything like that!!!), and use it religiously. Click here for a detailed explanation of why you must do it.
5. Quality Technical Service.
It is vitally important that all systems on your bike - brakes, derraileurs, drivetrain, wheels and bearings - function at their peak in winter. If you want to do your own bike repairs all winter, great! However, if you prefer to avoid contact with your chain, or other moving parts on your bike, or if you simply don't have the space or time to do the work yourself, please check out our Winter Tune-Up Special. The real value of this service is not only in the initial repairs performed on your bike, but the on-going, follow-up care to which you and your bike will be entitled all winter.
OK, and now for the coupons:
Click, print and redeem at Rapid Transit Cycleshop.