Well, I am not sure the titlelist can handle something bigger though it looks like maybe a 32 on the back, but it certainly won't handle a triple.
Without being rude - honest - I used to work on bikes like this in the 70s and not the newer stuff - you have an old bike that I would not have bought in the 70s for touring, let alone 40 years later. The frame has stamped dropouts and middle of the road components which were hallmarks of decent bikes, good bikes, suitable for reliably knocking around town etc. but not a serious touring machine even then. One step up from department store bikes with steel components, one peices cranks, steel rims and spot welded frames. One step below brazed and lugged cro-moly or manganese-moly frames with top notch componenents.
So if you upgrade to new components you will be throwing a lot of money into it and still have an old not so great bike that now does not have its period "charm". Now-people have gone around the world in old steel bikes; Fred Birchmore did it on a one speed in the 1930s.
If you plan on taking the bike on the trip, you may want to find an old bike mechanic and see if he has some parts that would be more suitable for cheap - maybe an old TA Cyclotourist crankset (THE triple of the day-but you would also need a new bottom bracket I believe) - maybe an old wide cage derailleur. For the freewheel, 6 speed threaded cog? (Not splined I presume) - maybe you can find a 32 or 34 tooth low gear but I would not count on getting any selection of cogs (We used to take them apart and rebuild to suit our preferences but that was a long time ago-nowadays I am stuck with whatever I can find stock (I have a 73 Schwinn Paramount)
I would also tear the bike completely apart, overhaul it, and learn how to replace spokes if you need to. (which means taking a tool for your freewheel as well, since on an old bike I would have the most concern on the freewheel side rear spokes) The best way to center the rear wheel is to put the bike upside down and line up the wheel in the center of the frame - you can't push it all the way back on the non-drive side- you are correct.
For the gearing - it depends on the grades in the alps and your fitness. I was able to cross the Rockies with a loaded touring bike and 42 front, 32 rear, but the Rockies do not have particularly steep grades, just long ones.
I checked and if you can score an old Sun Tour VX GT (my husband has this one) it will handle 34 teeth. I don't think anything went higher than 34 on the back. Maybe now, who knows but now won't work on old hubs.
Last edited by nancyj; 07-20-10 at 06:32 PM.