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Faster Mowers

Bruce Fordyce




Among the new crop of faster mowers is the John Deere Z665 EZTrak zero-turning-radius mower. This mower can cut at nine miles per hour and boasts a 60-inch mower deck.

For landscape maintenance professionals, less time spent mowing and maintaining a given property means more efficiency and potentially higher profits. When it comes to cutting more grass quicker, two main mower factors come into play: Faster cruising speeds and/or larger cutting decks. This year, a number of top mower manufacturers addressed this with new faster products.

According to Kris Kiser, CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, "Speed has been one of the drawbacks on mowers. Now they've gotten the engineering to where you can do it faster." After two years of slowing mower sales, sales as a whole are up so far in 2012, Kiser reported.

The longtime industry standard ranges from five to 5.5 mph in this tractor price class. At the higher speeds, you could slice through about 2.7 acres of grass in an hour versus two acres, says John Marchionda, vice president of marketing for Husqvarna.

 




Land Pride ZTi Series Zero Turn Mower comes in 60" or 72" width with Kawasaki engine. Tele-caster front suspension gives a smooth ride.

 

Breaking The Speed Barrier
John Deere this year rolled out the new $5,999 Z665 EZTrak zero-turning-radius (i.e., turns on a dime) mower, which can hit a ground speed of 9 miles per hour and boasts a monstrous 60-inch mower deck.

And Husqvarna has teamed up with Nascar champion Jimmie Johnson to promote its new "Fast Tractor" -- a $1,899 machine with a 48-inch deck that hits 7-8 mph and purports to be the fastest tractor under $2,500 on the market. Of course, you can't go full throttle under all conditions. As seasoned mowers know, speed can lead to a bad cut -- missed blades, an uneven shave, clumping. Wet grass, hills or uneven terrain mean slowing things down a notch for safety and perfection. Mower makers promise they've tweaked equipment to accommodate faster speeds in a range of conditions, from wider tires and seats with a lower-center of gravity, to more efficient deck and cutting blade designs. Speed is just one component in the rise of the Super Mowers.

According to some experts, mower makers are now focused on mimicking the auto industry with cosmetic and creature comforts. Sun shades, iPod compartments, cruise control, chrome hub caps and even alternative fuels are all part of the mower mania.

Hustler Turf Equipment offers the $10,000-plus commercial "Super Z" mower, which can jet along at 15 mph and has enough mechanical brawn to cut grass 40 hours a week.

 




Wright Manufactring introduced a new mid-mount zero turning radius mower, the ZTO (Zero Technology Optimized). The ZTO, with deck widths of 48," 52" and 61", has enhanced features from the ground up.

 

Sales Increasing
After double-digit decreases for the past two years, U.S. shipments of riders are expected to climb slightly more than 6-percent over the next two years, according to the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute.

For some buyers, the new mower mood is a reaction to the economy. As tight credit, unemployment woes and lower home resale values persist, more people are staying put and improving existing dwellings--as well as investing in higher-end equipment to care for it.

To a large extent, there is pent-up demand after a 3-year dry spell where consumers belt-tightened and repaired old equipment. Now that they are ready to buy, they are often buying big--especially the pricier "zero-turn" riders, which can make super-tight rotations around trees or flower beds, often cutting mowing time in half.

"Like people buying SUVs, they may be buying more mower than is technically necessary but that will give them a greater degree of comfort," says Kris Kiser, the institute's executive vice president.

 




Dixie Chopper Dominator has a 33 hp Generac engine. Engine oil accumulator included; dual wheel kit optional. Special features include 4-wheel-drive versatility and zero-turn maneuverability.

 

Bigger Mowers In An Era Of Shrinking Lawns?
The current appetite for high-end mowers is slightly counterintuitive. Some environmentalists and health advocates have been pushing homeowners to decrease pesticide and water usage by dialing back their lawn size. A growing number of towns and utilities offer financial incentives for such moves.

"Everyone is trending toward less turf, even on bigger estates," says Margie Grace, owner of Grace Design Associates, a landscape design and building firm in Santa Barbara, California. She calls it "waking from our lawn coma."





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July 15, 2018, 4:08 pm PDT

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