Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: New Orleans, LA
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DISCLAIMER - I have not actually toured yet, but I am a 20-mile/day commuter, so this is worth what you are paying for it!
I had a 48 spoke rear wheel built up. I weigh 210-215 (can't seem to get through that 200 barrier) and sometimes carry fairly heavy loads. I look at the wheel issue a little differently. On nice smooth roads I certainly don't need 48-spoke wheels, but there are spots on even my commute where the going gets kind of bumpy and a few hundred meters or so where I go off road. My primary commuter, which will also be my tourer, wears wider tires, 32-35 mm, and the 48-spoke rear wheel. Particularly on tour I want to be prepared for really bad road conditions. I imagine there will be times when it will be necessary or convenient to have some off-road capability. THAT is why I think a 48-spoke rear wheel is useful, for the unexpected. 36 is probably fine up front because the front wheel bears only a relatively small percentage or your weight plus (usually) relatively small panniers. I don't plan to use front panniers because I don't plan to do fully loaded touring with cook gear, etc., just basics with just enough to perhaps spend the night outdoors if the conditions are right.
If it ain't broke, mess with it anyway!