With all of the contemporary awareness that aerodynamic advantages of certain wheels have been perhaps overstated for some time, and weight playing a role but a limited one, what then makes one wheel better than another? Do some rims play nicer with certain hubs better than others? Why not just keep the stock wheels that came with your bike and avoid all the hoopla and expense?
First and foremost, good wheels are dependable. They should work, always, and take a good fair catastrophe to make them stop working. The should stay true, be resistant to dings, dents, and "d'oh!"s. Even if weight isn't that big a deal in the physics, it's not that hard to feel changes in weight and all of the rims we use fit within a fairly tight window of weight. No wheel is going to credibly and actually "hold speed better" or any of the other things people love to say, but there are gradations among rims. And various rims allow us to emphasize or minimize certain characteristics. A 120 pound woman whose every day workout is a solo ride up and around Mount Tam needs a dependable (everyone needs dependable) set of wheels that's light, is able to take the torque she imparts, has excellent cross wind manners (it's freaking windy over there) and is a champ at braking. My 160 pound mostly hack around relatively flat group riding and occasional racing behind can give away some of the light weight and wind manners emphasis and wants more "John why did you not point that gigantic pothole out" durability. And so on and on for every different type of rider and riding. Though the hub is the first element we design the build around, the rim matters a whole lot.
And so onward to rim number the first in our review, the Easton R90SL. These rims came to our attention about 15 months ago. The very first one I saw, I said "hey look at that it comes from the factory that makes HED rims," which to me is a tremendous credential. After building several of them, and riding a set, I was absolutely sold and they quickly became a favorite.
The specs: 455g/rim weight; 27mm tall; 19.5 inside width, 24.25 max outside width; 582 ERD (they call it 580 but they measure it in a weird way); tubeless ready; disc and rim versions; 20/24/28/32 rim brake drilling and 28/32 disc brake drilling.
Subjectively, I'll start by saying that if every other rim were to go away, I'd be just fine with Eastons as the only rim in town. I'll say that about others, but perhaps with a little less emphasis. They do everything well and nothing poorly. They're toward the very light end of rims that we use (and the lightest that we offer on our regular menu), slightly less stiff than some but plenty plenty stiff to make a good build. Depth is mid range with a great shape, and the width works superbly for everything from 23mm race tires to the gravel grinding tires that are currently on them on my CX bike. Tire install is easy, yet tubeless tires work GREAT with them. Construction is superb and their braking is at the top of the pyramid. We are able to do crazy nice builds with these rims. Their price is somewhat toward the higher end, but it's not hard to justify given their quality.
Aesthetics are basic and very good - a shot-peened low gloss anodize finish with simple, nice looking logo decals that are simple to remove if desired.
What's not to love? I guess it would be nice if they did a 24h disc version, and the disc version has a vestigial brake track that you don't really notice, but it's there. They might take 7 or 8g out of them with a disc specific extrusion, but this doesn't slow us down in recommending them.
In sum, we recommend a lot of Eastons, we sell a lot of Eastons, we ride Eastons, and we like them a whole lot. For the majority of our customers in the majority of use cases, these are a top option. Not very many "complete wheel" brands make component rims, and though these are not the same as rims that Easton sells in any complete wheel product (in fact I think they're much nicer than any of those rims), Easton deserves a lot of credit for making this excellent rim available as a component rim.