Last year I rode my single-speed in the winter. For what I was doing, that bike was just dandy!
Here's a photo of the Bott on the Sabo Bridge in Minneapolis, last February.
The Bott had 27 1/4" wheels with knobby tires and a low gear ratio for spinning through wind and snow. I had wide, low bars (Orgin8 Gary bars), full fenders, and lights. I say "had" because the Bott had a little accident... but I'll get to that in a minute.
If you are considering getting a bike specifically for winter, or maybe you're wondering if the bike you already have will be right for you, I'd like to offer up some of my experiences with riding the Bott through my first winter of riding.
I'll start by saying that for what I was using it for, and how often I was riding, I didn't need a "winter" bike. I didn't ride more than a three times a week, no more than 5 miles at a time. I wasn't commuting, and I wasn't going on too many winter adventure rides. Most of the riding I did was on cleared trails and roads. I just rode what I had.
The ice ruts last year were TERRIBLE. That said, I really learned a lot about how comfortable I am with fishtailing and spinning out a little. I only fell a twice last year, but I definitely walked up the ramps on the Greenway and over sketchy patches. I would shoulder my bike three blocks to the Greenway almost all winter, because my street was in such bad shape I didn't want to even try it. I think riding without studs in those conditions was a really great way for me to learn my limits, but I also didn't go out of my way to do anything stupid or dangerous. There are no studded tires manufactured for 27 1/4 wheels, so I did not have that option. Instead, I ran knobbies (Make sure the tread is not too deep- snow gets packed in there!) at a low pressure to maximize surface area/ traction on the road.
You'll notice that my bars are kind of low. They were wide, which gave me a lot of stability and handling control, which I liked. I have never ridden anything but drop bars, so I felt comfortable riding these bars most of the winter. There were a few times where I realized that I would prefer a more upright position: When the snow is kind of deep and you find your bike "surfing" through it, it's nice to be able to put more weight on the back and just let your front wheel find its way through the snow. That might sound crazy, but once you've done it you'll know what I mean. Also, being bent over meant I had to be careful about wind shooting down any little gap in my scarf- BRR.
Full fenders, as I have said before*, are so necessary. I know other people will tell you the clip on fenders/ beaver tail fenders are the best. It's really all personal preference, but I feel like the full fenders keep you dry and your bike clean. Planet Bike fenders are pretty affordable, and available at Sunrise Cyclery. =]
The Bott took a little spill the day before the first snow this year and its left crank arm was bent (*cry*) into the frame. So the crank is junked, and it would be way too expensive for me to replace it, so I probably need a new bottom bracket. I am not into buying "new" components so until I find something that that works the Bott is on the proverbial cement blocks in the proverbial front yard. Sad face.
Updates on the New Winter Bike upcoming...
*Remember the failed WTF bike camping trip of 2010? I was the only one that was not a complete mud monster, and also the only one with full fenders. Preach!