I bought a hybrid (Trek 7.5FX) a year and half ago, thinking that was the type of riding I'd want to do ... general fitness, bike paths, and that sort of stuff. Then I went on my first credit card tour with friends about 7 months ago and loved it. I now want to give touring a more serious try, starting with a few long weekend trips - solo or with friends if I can find any to go along. I'm not inclined to buy a true touring rig unless I discover I really am serious about it. My budget can't cover the cost of another bike so I'm considering trying to upgrade what I have for now.
I have a rear rack and panniers. The bike has a carbon fork but I've found a front rack that will work - OMM Cold Spring or Ultimate Lowrider. After doing a lot of reading on this forum and elsewhere, it appears the biggest issue with the bike is the funky, trendy spokes on the wheels - 20 spokes front and rear, unconventional pattern - fine for a general fitness bike on a bike path I guess but definitely nowhere near the 32-36 conventionally arranged spokes I probably need to have for a (mechanically) successful long-weekend tour.
So ... new wheels. I'm going to give my LBS a try but - as much I love the guys - they're into mountain biking and cyclo-cross but not so much into touring. I can probably swing $200-$300 for a new wheelset, maybe a smidge more. I am overwhelmed by the choices though so I'd like you out there to provide some advice (which I've valued very highly so far!). When I look on-line, the common components I tend to see in a wheelset in this price range tend to be Shimano Deore or Tiagra hubs, Mavic or Velocity Dyad rims, and 36 DT (?) spokes. The principal thing that means to me is that some combination of those components from a range of on-line sellers yields a wheelset in the price range I can afford. Beyond that ... I am clueless.
Suitability? Durability? Decent components? Best place to buy?
Newbie needs help!