I've had my Icon neoprene shock covers on the front for two years as of a week from now. For reference I've seen a few times on the forum that the high end shocks last about 40-60k miles before needing a rebuild. My Icons are at 32k miles and 3 years since their last rebuild. (helps to keep a spreadsheet of all this maintence stuff)
All three of those years I've ran at least 3 miles of dirt roads daily. A lot of times more like 15 miles at 60 mph so they have definitely been used. The years haven't been so kind to the rear 2.0 shocks.
This is similar to the conditions that kill my stuff but, with an added dash of mountain snow. My rear SAWs lasted about 15k miles and I doubt if my fronts will make it to 30k. That shouldn't reflect poorly on the SAWs (I really like them) but, as you pointed out, any kind of exposed shaft design can't really handle extreme environmental conditions.
Here is Icon's rebuild service costs.
So, about the same price as to completely replace an OME shock but, with extra downtime and it probably needs to be rebuilt more frequently than the OMEs need to be replaced. Makes it a hard decision.
IMO running the front covers is an excellent way to get them to last longer. It doesn't trap dirt like the rear boots (That I don' t run for that reason) because the lower coil cup has a slot in it.
That's interesting. I replaced my rear SAWs with Toytec BOSS shocks specifically because of the boots. I really like them but, I guess I'll find out how well they hold up in another year or so.
From what you've described, it sounds like the covers will extend the life a bit but not in a miraculous way. I've heard of people getting crazy high miles out of OMEs so, I'm kind of torn. Maybe I'll try out the OMEs and, if they are awful, get the SAWs rebuilt and put them back on with covers.
Thanks for the detailed feedback.