Life is simply timing...
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: British Columbia - Lower Mainland
Bikes: Kona Cinder Cone (2005) / Cannondale T700 Touring (1994)
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This question is very similar to a thread from a few days ago. I have attached my reply to that post below and will repeat my recommendation, especially if you think you will be encountering significant mountain passes. Even with the 20 chainring, I struggled on some inclines (I was 46 years old at the time and in excellent shape). Contrary to another response, a 20 chainring does not mean you will have balance problems but you will be able to go up almost any hill, (I say almost but in my case I was never beaten) and I tackled significant inclines both loaded (25-35Kg) and unloaded.
As I have previously stated on these forums, I don't really tour at this time but hope to get back onto the long distance roads in the next year or two. However, when I was touring in the mid 90's for about six years of rather intense (my friends would say obsessed!) riding, a 1994 Cannondale T700 was essentailly the only bike I rode. The gearing that I had on this bike, after some tweaking) was:
44/34/20 chainrings and a 11-28 cassette.
It was great for touring in the mountains of BC, Alberta, Montana, Idaho and Washington. I'm sure the low gearing (.71 ratio) helped keep me injury free during that time period. And on the other end, I did a lot of no-load training on that bicycle including a few 200 and 300km brevets. The high end was fine for my style of riding which is by no means timid.
My recommendation - use the lowest, low gearing possible for touring.