The Cutting Edge
As the mowing season moves ahead full-throttle, grounds managers are in the perfect position to assess their mowing fleets and determine their needs for next season. Perhaps they need to replace equipment. Maybe they wish for a little more speed or wider decks to increase productivity. What about a mower that works efficiently across changing terrain? Or a collection system to keep ballfields neatly manicured?
Today’s mowers have features to meet those needs and more, and companies continue to expand their mower lines to offer more bang for the buck. What can grounds managers expect in the coming months and year? A poll of the manufacturers produced the following preview.
Riding mowers will feature liquid-cooled power plants and more horsepower.
The company is adding horsepower to its engines, and it plans to introduce as many as six new platforms with several new models later this year. It also plans to introduce a “stand-on” mower to compete with existing models from Great Dane and Wright Manufacturing. The primary advantage of the stand-on mower is its compactness, says Gregg Breningmeyer, marketing manager for commercial mowing. Trailers accommodate more stand-on mowers than they do conventional mowers, allowing users to increase productivity by transporting more mowers to a given site.
After years of catering to the consumer market, Dixon introduced its commercial design ZTR 8025 three years ago. Now, Dixon offers the companion diesel model, the ZTR 8026D, with a 26.5-horsepower Daihatsu diesel engine. Both models offer 60- and 72-inch decks, with cutting height from 1.5 to 6 inches. Both mowers also feature Dixon’s patented “Z” drive transaxle and hydrostatic drive.
The company is introducing the XP Series 60- and 72-inch Lazer Z mowers. For the first time, it is incorporating Daihatsu engines in its mowers, offering a 27-horsepower diesel and a 31-horsepower gas engine with the XP Series. John Cloutier, marketing communications manager, says the new mowers answer a demand for extra power for tough mowing conditions and mulching work.
Along with the new engines, the company has introduced its DynaFocal engine iso-mount system to reduce vibration. The design is patterned after jet-engine mounting technology, Cloutier says.
“We’ve also introduced a new [one-piece], tubular frame to absorb vibrations better and extend frame life,” he notes. “Our new XP mowers also feature an innovative dual mule deck-drive system to deliver more power to the cutting deck and maximize stability.”
To beat impending changes in emissions standards, Grasshopper is using only CARB II certified engines on its liquid-cooled commercial mowers. The company offers a special front-mount mower, the 725K/LP municipal model, with a dual fuel gasoline or LP engine that makes the unit operable on ozone non-compliance days in certain cities. The optional LP mode allows the unit to be used inside with a sweeper or other attachment, notes Patsy Penner, marketing coordinator.
The company has introduced the “Velvet Touch Control” hydraulic drive train for its Dixie Chopper brand of commercial zero-turning radius lawn mowers. “For years we’ve been searching for ways to make the drive systems run cooler and live longer,” says President Art Evans.
The drive system consists of modified Hydro-Gear hydraulic pumps, and the company has developed a new oil to extend the system’s life. Operators also can use the oil on other brands of zero-turn mowers.
This year, Walker will equip more of its mowers with V-twin liquid-cooled engines. “Liquid-cooled engines tend to run a little leaner and operate somewhat quieter,” says Bob Walker, company president. “Some claim maintenance is less, but that’s debatable. While keeping air-cooled engines clean is paramount, so is keeping the radiator clean on liquid-cooled engines.”
The company also will increase the percentage of its mowers equipped with electronic fuel injection (EFI). Both Walker and Exmark pioneered the use of EFI, and field response has been good. Although the computer equipment for EFI adds about $400 to retail costs, resulting fuel savings offset the increase. Additionally, EFI reduces emissions and increases power response under loads.
Manufacturers are highlighting deck size, float and collection.
CUB CADET COMMERCIAL
The company has added “Command Cut” floating decks to its commercial riding mowers. The decks are fabricated with 10-gauge tops and 7-gauge steel skirts with welded steel bars for extra reinforcement. Extra-deep design enhances airflow and dispersal of clippings, according to the company. Additionally, the decks have an extra 1.5-inch lip on the underside to hold clippings longer for better re-cutting.
The company has added the mid-mount Hustler Z, with 52- and 60-inch decks, to its lineup. This summer, it will introduce the Super Z, which features a larger engine than the Z, a 60-inch deck and forward speed up to 15 miles per hour. The company also added a 37-inch deck to its 48- and 54-inch walk-behind hydro mowers.
Late last year, the company introduced its line of DuraMax decks, featuring 5.5-inch sides and six-bolt spindle design. To complement the decks, the company has unveiled the Power-Vac Collection System for its mid-mount mowers. The new bagging system is designed specifically for Grasshopper M1 52- or 61-inch decks and includes twin bags that hold up to 8 cubic feet of material. “A single pin change converts the vacuum system to side discharge configuration, and an optional mulching package is available with the same deck,” Penner explains.
The company already has adapted its 7-Iron technology to most mulching and side-discharge decks, and the same feature will be available on 36-inch decks by the 2003 model year. The heavy steel (0.177 inch thick) is durable, and the stamping process allows for a cleaner, more uniform product. “The downside is increased manufacturing cost, but fortunately Deere has the facilities to handle it efficiently,” Breningmeyer says.
The company enters the zero-turn market with the ZD18 and ZD21 mid-mount mowers, offering 54-inch and 60-inch decks, respectively. A 12-bushel clippings collector is optional for each model. The mowers feature a built-in jack system and a pivoting front axle, making it unnecessary to remove the deck during maintenance.
The company also offers a 48-inch deck for its G-series tractors. The deck includes a “direct chute” for clippings pick-up through the center of the unit. The feature contributes to the mower’s compact design, and it eliminates the need for a blower.
The company now offers fabricated decks on its Viper line of ZTR mowers. It has added a 48-inch model (54- and 60-inch models already were available), which is powered by a 19-horsepower Kawasaki engine.
The company has made more than 40 enhancements to the Viper line this year, says John Vyn, director of equipment marketing. They include realigned deck geometry and blade offset to boost cutting performance.
SCAG POWER EQUIPMENT
The company has introduced the Advantage Deck, which “delivers a superior cut in a wide variety of grasses and significantly reduces double cutting,” says John Crowson, vice president of sales and marketing. It also has raised the horsepower on its riding mowers to increase ground speed and power to the cutting deck.
ENCORE POWER EQUIPMENT
The company has adapted floating-deck technology to its mid-cut models. A three-point pivot system between the deck and mower frame allows the deck to “float” over bumps, holes or uneven terrain. “The front wheels act as caster wheels to maintain ground contact from side to side and front to back,” says Dick Tegtmeier, president and CEO. To draw attention to the feature, the company is offering buyers a $100 factory rebate on each Prowler Mid Cut.
CONTROLS AND COMFORT
From handlebar technology to foot pedals, manufacturers are incorporating a variety of new features to reduce operator stress.
The company offers foot-controlled height adjustment for its new mid-mount zero-turn mowers. The “Quick Foot” control provides cutting height adjustment from 1.5 to 5 inches in 0.25-inch increments. “You can lock the deck up or down with the foot pedal and adjust cutting height just by tilting your foot forward or rearward,” says Jack Harrington, senior product manager. A full suspension operator seat is available as an option.
Later this year, the company will introduce its B-Series walk-behind greens mowers with 18-, 22- and 26-inch models. The line will be equipped with a “floating” handlebar, which allows the operator to rest his or her hands on the handlebar without affecting quality of cut. “Instead of rigidly mounting the handlebar, we have attached it with two pivot points that allow the handle to float up and down,” says Chuck Greif, manager of market development for golf and turf. “Slots allow for adjusting handlebar pins up or down to fit the operator’s height. The slots also let the handlebar float up and down, so cut remains constant even when the operator varies hand pressure on the handlebar.”
The company’s Dixon 8025 and 8026D mowers both feature a “big rig” seat suspension system supported by springs and adjustable shock absorbers. High backs combine with the system to reduce operator stress and fatigue.
The company has incorporated a park-brake system into the steering levers of its Hustler Z. “When the operator releases the steering levers, the parking brake engages. It not only saves operators a step, it eliminates the chance of them forgetting to put on the park brake,” says Ken Rainey, the company’s advertising manager. The mower also features a spring-assisted foot control for deck-lift and height adjustment.
For its walk-behinds, the company has added a sit-down/standup sulky. “It can be hooked or unhooked quickly with just two pins,” Rainey explains. “The operator can mow flat terrain without getting so fatigued. When he comes to a bank or berm, he can unhook the sulky in a few seconds, mow the slope, then reattach the sulky.”
The company has introduced an optional Enhanced Control System (ECS) to its Turf Tracer line of walk-behind mowers. “ECS positions the operator’s hands, arms and back more naturally, to reduce fatigue. The ‘inward’ tilt of the controls allows for better control and protects the operator’s hands when mowing along a fence or wall,” Cloutier says. The system includes a thumb-operated neutral lock for engaging and disengaging the cutting deck.
The company’s mowers feature a lever that adjusts cutting height in 0.25-inch increments, as well as an optional foot-assist deck lift. The new ZTH6125 is engineered with isolated engine mounts and a patent pending isolated seat mount to reduce vibration for the operator and the machine.
Gary Burchfield is a freelance writer based in Lincoln, Neb.
This article is reprinted with permission of Grounds Maintenance (www.grounds-mag.com), a sister publication of American City & County. It has been edited to conform to ACC style and space requirements.