Why buy a riding mower? The list of benefits offered by a riding mower is my favorite topic! Whether a front engine or rear engine riding mower configuration, the benefits go way beyond the ability to ride instead of walk.
Firstly, riding mowers do a great job of cutting your lawn, while you ride in comfort, especially on those hot, summer days. In addition, they cut a wider swath of lawn, when compared with traditional, homeowner walk-behind mowers. This comparison does not apply to expensive, professional mowers that range up to 61-inches in width. Mowing time is reduced dramatically owing to both the increase in cutting width and the consistently higher driving speed of the tractor, which ranges up to 5.5 mph. There are some “fast-cut” mowers that claim speeds up to 7.5 mph. However, for general cutting with good results, one should not exceed about 4.0 mph. Manufacturers do a good job of matching engine size and power to the cutting deck width to ensure that for any given width, blades turn at a constant speed of about 3,000 rpm on fast throttle, with blade tips moving at roughly 19,000 fpm, under most conditions. The most common cutting width for front engine riding mowers is 42-inches, doubling the typical 21-inch walk-behind and reducing cutting time by more than 50%. The most common cutting width for a rear-engine rider is 30-inches, almost halving again the typical 21-inch cutting width and reducing cutting time by more than 30%.
Riding mowers also excel at picking up grass cuttings and leaves using a rear grass catcher (bagger). Basically, assuming a sufficiently strong engine, suction is inversely proportional to the cutting area of a mower. So the smaller the cutting area, the more suction there is to pick up debris. Suction is outstanding for mowers ranging from 28- to 38-inches, and very good for 42-inch to 48-inch mowers. Beyond 48-inches, a power bagging system is recommended. A power bagger employs an auxiliary blower that is usually driven off a mower pulley and integral to the lower discharge chute that comes from the mowing deck outlet. It provides extra suction to draw debris out from under the mowing deck and up the bagger chute. The first cut having been performed by the blades, the blower also shreds cuttings a second time into finer debris for easier handling.
The capability to shred and bag leaves offers a big advantage, relieving the homeowner from the back-breaking job of raking and placing leaves in bags by hand. We always recommend that you pick up leaves with the mowing deck at the top cutting height. You should try to keep up with them so that you aren't plowing the leaves, in which case the leaves go onto the top of the deck and can clog things up. If you have to, you can get around this problem by spreading the leaves out on the lawn with a power blower or rake, or you can carefully "cut off" a section of leaves at a time with the right side of the deck. In either case, it's better to just mow them up often enough to prevent them from piling up.
In addition, because the blades chop up the leaves before they are sucked up into the bagger, the debris is compressed so that more goes into each bag. This makes for easier and more compact disposal when you simply empty the bags into barrels or paper containers. As a result you use fewer containers for dumping or recycling. With a mower like this, you will save so much time and hard work you'll actually have fun picking up the leaves in the fall. It’s unlikely you’ll ever go back to endless raking and bending over to pick up leaves.
Even if you have a small property, the savings in time and energy taking care of your lawn both in lawn cutting and collecting leaves is immeasurable and makes maintenance something that you can do much more easily and quickly. This provides more time for you to do landscaping tasks you might otherwise ignore, like fertilizing, trimming bushes, planting bulbs and perennials, and other tasks that enhance the appearance of your home. Altogether you'll just have more leisure time during your precious weekends. Once you use a riding mower, a walk-behind becomes handy only for finish trimming and left-over mowing on steep inclines.
Further, all riding mowers accept attachments. A quality riding mower will tow a good-sized cart in which you can put topsoil or mulch (bags or bulk), lime for application in spring and/or fall, bags of fertilizer, and branches and twigs for clean-up after a storm. You can add other accessories, such as a tow-behind dethatcher to remove excess thatch in spring, an aerator to cut into and aerate the lawn, a lawn roller, or even a spreader. Some of these only make sense on a larger property, e.g., a spreader where a walk-behind works better on under an acre. Many riding mowers accept front attachments, such as a snow plow blade, a snow blower, or a front-end dethatcher.
We rarely recommend snow blades and snow blower attachments because they require a specific type of property layout (completely level, space to plow or move snow, and direct access from an enclosed space to the area to be plowed). These attachments are very cumbersome to install and remove, often requiring removal and reinstallation of the mowing deck. They are difficult to operate, given the requirement to handle both the tractor controls and the blade or blower controls. On front engine tractors, the weight is in the wrong place to propel a heavy, front-mounted snow blade or blower. This makes it tough to get traction at the rear drive wheels even with wheel weights and/or rear weight platforms and tire chains. Invariably, a walk-behind snow blower is more practical and better performing with its better power to intake ratio, weight distribution over the drive wheels, capability to throw snow away from the area to be cleared (instead of compressing it to the side), and its inherently better maneuverability and operability. For more information on snow blades and snow blower attachments, refer to Article 21 and Article 8 respectively.
Finally, small drive-on trailers are available for your mower. This allows you to bring your mower to another property or to take it in for service without a lot of hassle. Speaking of service, riding mowers are inherently easier to work on than their walk-behind counterparts. Particularly with front-engine tractors, the components and assemblies are bigger and easier to get at. The openness of the engine compartment and the size of the engine make it easier to service and maintain the engine.
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