addicted to coffee
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Queen Charlotte, British Columbia
Bikes: Surly LHT, Gunnar Roadie, Trek Fuel EX, Fisher Twenty Niner
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I build my own wheels, so this mostly comes from experience, and not really science.
I run straight guage spokes on my touring wheelset, I like the added stiffness.
Most spokes break on a touring bike at the "elbow", which is the same size whether we have butted or straight spokes. You really should not worry about strength so much, since modern butted spokes are just as strong as straight, just not as stiff. If you want to add stiffness to a butted spoke, you can always tie and solder the cross points.
For touring I would reccomend 32 straight spokes or 32 butted spokes with a tie and solder.
36 spokes is not really neccessary, as the pull angles on 32 spoke wheels yield stronger wheels than with 4 more spokes. Look at a 32, you will see two spokes directly pulling against two others. This makes a balanced wheel. 36 has 2 spokes pulling two others at an odd angle, which is not good. I read that somewhere, and it made sense, and after riding both kinds, I sincerely believe it.