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Old 09-29-09, 04:32 PM
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Assuming an undamaged nondefective hub, all that matters for smoothness are the bearings. There is no reason that the cheapest hub cannot feel as smooth as the most expensive hub with a bearing swap. The hubshell itself just holds the spokes and axle in place and is irrelevant to rolling resistance. The flange height and spacing are relevant to wheel stiffness, but that is another issue apart from quality.
The formula hubs I have used have very smooth and durable bearings and spin more freely than Phil bearings because there is less seal drag. Even if the bearings don't last as long, bearings are very cheap and can easily be replaced with Phil bearings. The cost of a formula hub + the highest quality bearings available will still be many times cheaper than a Phil hub.

The difference in rolling resistance between mediocre bearings and the best bearings is exceedingly minor. Unless the hub is severely maladjusted, people who claim to "feel" the difference in hubs cannot really isolate the "feel" of the hub from other parts of a new wheelset. Tires, tire pressure, spoke tension, lacing pattern, the number of spokes, and the rim, will effect how a wheel seems to roll. Of course there is also the placebo factor. It is nonesense to attribute a percieved difference in feel between two wheesets to the hub.
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