We maintain grass for a living. Because of this we spend a great deal of time researching the best and most innovative equipment that allows us to mow the most amount of grass in the least amount of time. The topic of lawn equipment is so large that it consumes 25 acres of indoor and outdoor space with the latest technology at the GI&E Expo every year in Louisville, Kentucky. Current manufacturers, new inventors and other dreamers strut their stuff at the expo and show why their equipment is the most functional or efficient at particular tasks. From riding mowers, zero turn mowers, robotic mowers, electric mowers; it’s either here, or was here before it was taken to market.
The reason this is relevant is because trade shows like this represent where equipment has came from, and where it is going to.
Most average consumers know of 2 types of lawn mowers; a riding mower and a push mower. A garden tractor is for big lawns and a push mower is for small ones. This is an incredibly naive view when considering the proper mower for a given lot or group or properties.
Let’s start with push mowers. By now, push mowers have been replaced with self propelled mowers that do the moving on behalf of the operator. This makes for faster grass cutting and less fatigue on the operator. These offerings come in a variety of sizes, engine makes and powers, and their transmissions have a variety of speed capabilities.
If a property is larger most people will go and drop a few thousand dollars on a ride on mower. If they’re an old schooler they’ll consider a garden tractor with a traditional steering wheel and call it a day. They default to this choice either because they are not aware other options exist or because they are not brazen enough to try something which they are not familiar with.
Zero turn mowers have been around for decades. For some reason Winnipeg is the last to get innovative products and there are still many people who aren’t aware of what zero turn mowers are or how they aide in faster grass maintenance. The fundamental advantage of zero turns over wheeled mowers is that they have a 0 degree turning radius. Hence the name zero turn. This means that the mower’s drive system is driven similar to that of a skid steer, with a motion control lever for the right wheel and a motion control lever for the left wheel. The rear wheels initiate both forward and rear motion, as well as steering.
The advantage of this platform is paramount when striping a lawn or navigating around trees and other obstacles. Not only is changing direction quicker on a zero turn, it’s also much less effort. The motion control levers only move about 5 inches total and a turn can be initiated with far less pressure on the controls than that. This means instead of yanking a steering wheel one way, then yanking it back; the operator can simply move their arms a few inches and do a full 180 degree turn. The radius is of course sharper as well.
The other advantage of zero turns is they typically come with more engine power and much faster cutting speeds which allows them to cut more grass, faster. This is why they should be the choice of an acreage owner over a riding mower with a steering wheel.
Adjustment to a zero turn mower is easy but will take some devoted concentration for a few hours until you wrap your mind around the new method of controls. Firstly, the drive system is run by hydraulic which provides much less feel and coasting to the operator than typical transmission with a clutch. The most important difference is that the same wheels are initiation motion and steering. This means it’s much easier to lose traction and scuff the turf. The typical beginner error on a zero turn is to think they can defy the laws of physics by taking high speed right angle or 180 degree turns. A beginner must remember that in order to turn they must reduce the inertia by reducing their speed and THEN turning. Not doing both simultaneously.
If you are in the market for a new riding mower and are pondering between a wheeled and zero turn mower, pay the extra money and buy a zero turn and you won’t look back.