I got my first real touring bike back in 1994, a custom made steel frame from Marinoni with an all Campagnolo drivetrain. I rode it for 15 years through several continents until the paint started to crackle and rust, and the most of the parts just got too worn out. I reluctantly abandoned it five years ago, stuffing it up in the rafters of the shed before riding off to Alaska with a new Trek 520.
In a fit of nostalgia, I decided to dust off the old beast, striped it down and sent the frame back to the builder to get it completely repainted. I just got the frame back and it is better than new, even its rusted braze-ons were replaced, and a superior quality paint was used. I will slowly rebuild the bike with new parts as a labour of love through the winter. I've ordered a new wheel set, using Velo Orange Grand Cru hubs with their RAID rims to retain a bit of the vintage feel of the bike.
Looking back, the Campy parts were beautiful, but I hate the range of their gear cassettes, and how relatively limited and expensive it is to obtain replacements. So I'm going to switch over to Shimano. I had Ergo shifters, but I'm leaning towards low maintenance thumb shifters — any opinions regarding these?
Since it's a chance to start from scratch, I'm also looking to get some recommendations on a new triple crankset and other aspects of the drivetrain — should I lean towards Deore, SLX, Tiagra or 105 etc? As most of us learn over the years, expensive isn't necessarily better, and my experience is limited only to the group sets I've used so it would be great to hear from other touring cyclists regarding reliability and robustness. Any personal opinions on where the current line is drawn between the various components — where what you pay for durability ends, and you start wasting money on light-weightness is ?