I'm a complete luddite, so consider this me seeking knowledge more than offering advice. Wouldn't the hubs have a much longer useable life than tires though, making them the much better investment? And if I am way off base in that thought, how does the wheel itself fit into the equation of a quality wheelset? Like which of the 3 contributes the most to wheel performance and ride quality?
i have continental grand prix 4 seasons on my concept. they roll very smooth and go up to a high pressure. however, dura ace hubs are not necissarily better than formulas in every case. they roll smoother than sealed formulas, they look pretty sweet, and have good threading. but unless you are track racing and/or know how to repack bearings, the formula wheelsets are cheaper, easier to maintain, and allows you some extra room. look for fixed/fixed formulas, a good set of hoops (cxp's, sun's, dp18's, deep v's, whatever) and a good cog and lockring (eai, dura ace (my favorite), surly, eighthinch). If you can afford the tires go for it, those are easier to upgrade later.
You will notice more difference in your tyres than you will with any decent hubs... although when it comes to hubs I'd always buy the best you can afford... but for their price Formula hubs are a smoking good deal and are pretty much bombproof.
dude u need that trixie tool its the best tool ever it even comes with a bottle opener ! dude all the messengers reccomended it to me and evr since i got it im basically a mechaninc now and all the bike shops want me.
You'll never notice the difference between a formula hub and hubs that cost 4-5 times more. If you are building a wheelset, get a good reliable low-cost hub such as a formula, and concentrate your money more on getting good rims, butted spokes, and quality tires.
I would rather have hubs with shielded cartridge bearings. I don't mind maintaining loose-ball hubs. It's just the cost of maintenance (time and money) would go up as I would need to repack often and part replacements are more difficult to get. I would have less to worry about with shielded cartridge bearings and even if they are busted the cost of replacement is low and takes less time to replace to boot. (LBS people would be happier too if you are having em do it, methink. Scrod?)