My wife and I both have 1984 Trek Touring bikes which use Maillard Helicomatic freewheels. Her's is a 720, mines a 620.
We just got back from 562 mile trip from Portland Oregon to Arcata California and didn't have any major mechanical problems other than one flat tire, a screw that fell off a rear rack, and a broken mirror when one of the bikes fell over when parked. I carried extra spokes and freewheel tool just in case but didn't need them.
Yes, I have a 1988 (?) Nishiki, original wheels/hubs. The original Suntour freewheel is 6-speed. What's your question?
I've toured over 10,000 miles on it. When I use that bike, I carry a freewheel removal tool, and a lightweight aluminum crescent wrench. I've had to use those a few times (with assistance from a rock) to replace some broken spokes.
Last time I toured on it, I replaced the freewheel with a 7-sp Shimano, mainly to get the 32 low-end gear. The bike has Suntour barcons, and I thought I'd have to switch them to friction mode. But, lo and behold, the Suntours are so forgiving and easy to use, that the indexing still works -- although for the two highest gears, I have to "feather" the shifting at the index to get either gear.
If and when the hub ever gives up the ghost, I think I'll just spread the dropouts and go with a freehub.
81 Fuji Gran Tour SE, 83 Fuji S12S LTD, Voyageur 11.8 chrome, Raleigh R300 Touring, Voyageur 11.8
Ha! No spokes issues, just theorizing. I have some older nice frames and wanted to use 130mm hubs, but I am pushing 210 pounds and wanted 36 hole hubs, which are harder to find. So I figured just go 126 with a 7 speed freewheel and some Silver bar ends and call it a day.
Simple solution is to bend stays to 130mm and rebuild with more modern cassette drivetrain.
This is definitely the easiest and most practical solution unless you already have some nice vintage hubs/wheels that you really want to use. You hardly even need to actually bend the chainstays; they will easily flex 4mm to accommodate a newer hub. If you do want to cold set the chainstays to the 130mm spacing (makes it easier to take the wheel in and out), get a length of 3/8 all-thread and spread the drops by pushing them apart with nuts and washers. you will have to spread them a good ways past 130mm because they will spring back. Alternatively, just pull apart on the stays by hand. You can run a string from one rear drop, around the head tube, and back to the other rear drop. Then measure the distance from the string to the seat tube on each side to see if you bent the stays equally. Adjust as necessary. You might want to have the LBS re-align the derailleur hanger afterwards.
My touring bike has a 6-cog freewheel and 36 spokes/hub. I generally just carry a spoke wrench and figure that if I break only a single (or maybe even two) spokes that I can adjust the tension in the neighboring ones well enough to get to the next town with a bike shop. There are also methods to deal with replacing spokes without removing the freewheel. One is to carry the flexible Kevlar spoke (FiberFix) that you can insert in place of the broken one if that one can be removed; or you can loop it around a spoke on the opposite side of the hub flange if the original spoke can't be removed (see Peter White site for illustration). Another is to carry a spare spoke with the head trimmed down to a 'J' shape that can be inserted in the hub hole - but this requires being able to remove the old spoke and that's not always an option.