Custom Bike - 6~8 weeks
Bike Repair - 1 week
The reason most people buy an S&S coupled touring bike is to save on airline 'oversized' fees. The biggest case you can take on an airplane without the 'oversized' fee is 26" X 26". A 700c wheel, with the tire on, is bigger than 26" (see illustrations to the right). So, with 700c wheels, one must remove the tires and tubes to fit the wheels into the 26" case. If the tires are very narrow, like 23c or less, you can get away with deflating the tires all the way, and jamming them into the case. Most people find that even with the narrow tires, it's much easier to just take them off anyway.
We've sold several touring bicycles with 700c wheels and S&S couplings. A lot of these customers tell me later that they wish they would've chosen the 26" wheels. I have nothing to gain financially from your choice of wheel size, and we make them either way. I just think it's important to relay information from my customers to you before you make your decision. We want your Rodriguez to be your favorite bike!
One more side benefit
Sometimes the baggage handlers at the airport aren't as careful as you would be with your luggage. Imagine how much safer your wheels are in that case if the tires and tubes are on and inflated.
The same thing is true for the rim. A 26" rim is also available in remote areas, and the 700c is not so much. Once in a while someone will need a new wheel on a tour, and we find that they really appreciate the availability of a rim just about anywhere (as opposed to trying to have a 700c wheel fedexed to their tent in the middle of the mohabi desert).
If you are planning to tour in remote areas of the world, I suggest you consider the 26" wheel for the availability of it.
Once you're riding on a 'road' that's made of golf ball sized rocks, 100 year old cobblestone, or just dirt and sticks with some 3" deep mud in the 'good' sections, you'll understand the advantage of being able to put on a 1.75" wide mountain bike tire if you need to. It can be the difference between riding to the next town at a leisurely pace, or pushing the bike, gear and all until darkness falls, and you camp out in the rain.
When we make one of our UTB travel/touring bikes, we design the frame and fork for clearance for knobby tires up to 1.75" or inverted tread tires up to 2" wide.
If you are going to travel to places with really bad roads, or if you want to be able to take your bike off-road, I recommend considering 26" wheels for the ability to install real mountain bike tires.
Thanks - Dan