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When I was younger, it seemed most mountain bike shocks had rubber boots on them, but now most seem to be "naked."

Product sampling from an online bike shop

How important were the shock protectors that covered the exposed part of the piston - either the generic rubber boots or the neoprene "lizard" protectors? Did they make a difference for most riding styles?

Why has naked become the new thing? Is this just value-engineering?

Generic shock protectors

And is there any meaningful difference in performance between the two?

marked as duplicate by BSO rider, andy256, mattnz, Móż, Criggie Dec 12 '16 at 5:24

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  • Is this specific to rear shocks or to front/fork shocks, or general? – Criggie Dec 11 '16 at 4:32
  • 1
    Seems most shocks are naked these days, but the front ones have been standing out as they're the most visible. Mostly curious about the trend. – RoboKaren Dec 11 '16 at 4:36
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    Even on motocrossers shock protectors are out of fashion because they hinder the action of the fork and make visual inspection for damages much more difficult. They were in use at a time where the material of the seals was less effective. – Carel Dec 11 '16 at 11:09
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Fork boots were used to keep dirt off the stanchions and help keep the wipers clean. Modern quality forks have wipers that clean better and last longer, and more abrasive resistant stanchions, so no need for a boot. Cheap forks don't put boots on because in today's market place, boots scream cheap fork

Dirt always manages to get behind the boot no matter how well sealed it is, this has several detrimental effects. Any dirt trapped between the boot and stanchion stays there and increases rubbing. The boot transfers dirt back to a stanchion wiped clean by the wiper. To make matters much worse, and probably the reason they have fallen out of favor the most - the better the seal, needed to make them most effective, the harder it was to clean behind them. Few people could be bothered (or never even knew) to clean behind the boot. Given that, for a typical user, dirt trapped behind the boot is far worse than dirt a naked fork is exposed to. Additionally moisture can be trapped in the boot, increasing the risk of corrosion on the stanchion, defeating the purpose of having the boot.

Boot may have an advantage in extremely muddy conditions provided they are well sealed and removed for cleaning regularly. However, the effort is probably not worth the reward.

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