Up until about eight years ago, I had always used 36 spoke wheels on mountain bikes. Then I decided to build up some 32 spoke wheels with XT hubs and Mavic X517 rims (these rims are quite light for mtb rims). So I built up one wheelset myself and bought another "mail order" set that was identical to the set I built (I change tires a lot and like the convenience of having an extra wheelset). I remember worrying about the 32 spoke thing at the time, because I do some fairly aggressive XC mountain biking. But after all this time with those wheels, having thrashed them with thousands of hard off-road miles, I've decided a good set of 32 spoke wheels is just fine. I've rarely even needed to true them. The wheels I built I've used almost exclusively off road, and more recently with the other set I keep a set of road slicks on the rims so that I can quickly convert for road use when needed. Now I realize this is a different situation than what you're talking about, and 26" wheels are inherently stronger, etc. But for a front wheel on a road bike, even for loaded touring, as long as it's a well built wheel I think you'll be fine with 32 spokes-
Last edited by well biked; 10-15-07 at 09:37 AM.