I like really good hubs laced to medium weight, alloy rims with a relatively large number of spokes when compared with a modern wheel. I like wheels that are at home with 700 x 28 to 34 mm tires. A perfect set of wheels would be Curtis Odom hubs laced to Velo Orange Raid rims, built carefully using Wheelsmith double butted stainless steel spokes and brass nipples. For a 200 pound rider, 32 hole front and rear.
This sort of old-style build creates a wheel that looks good, rolls well and will last for many years. When the rim needs replacement, the cost of the rebuild is a fraction of the cost of a new wheel.
I hate to use words like “forever” when I talk about bicycle components, but the best quality hubs will last a lifetime or more. The best designed and built wheels should last until the braking surface on the rim wears out. Theoretically, short of a catastrophic failure event, there is no real limit to how long a disc brake wheel can last.
Modern rims are better made than vintage rims – better alloys, more consistent extrusions, better quality control. Because wheel-building is my hobby, my passion and my meditation, I take the time it needs to make the overall quality of the wheel match the quality of the rim. I can build an acceptable wheel, actually a pretty good wheel, in 20 minutes to half an hour, where I am using a hub and rim combination I have worked with previously. But for wheels that I build now, and for the people I teach, the real time and effort has just started when the wheel is acceptable.
EarleWheels have spoke tension that is as even as possible while maintaining radial and lateral deviation of less than half a millimeter from the average. I achieve this goal by repeatedly verifying the tension on the spokes and the deviation of the rim then stress relieving the spokes.
Unlike production wheels, EarleWheels do not need to be retensioned and retrued after the first few rides. They will stay true and round until impact or accident damages them.