Ride-on cylinder mowers

Consider site size, frequency of cut and fuel before investing in one of these machines.

In the growing season grass-cutting is one of the most frequent operations undertaken, often starting early in the morning. And because so many hours can be spent mowing, it is important to buy the right machine for the job.
Cylinder mowers are designed to give a good quality finish so, despite there being a lot of blade to keep sharp, they are usually the preferred choice where appearance counts — especially on golf courses and ornamental lawns.
Pedestrian models are ideal for small areas and for sites such as bowling greens where perfection is required. If productivity is key for mowing large areas of grass, the tractor-mounted gang mower remains popular. Ride-on cylinder mowers fill the gap.
The size of the site, its openness and its awkwardness in terms of beds, borders, trees and other obstacles will determine whether a three-unit or five-unit cylinder mower is appropriate. The triple mower is at home in tight spaces while the five-unit mower comes into its own on larger sites — especially those where a tractor and gang would be insufficiently manoeuvrable and would leave a lot of trimming. Ride-on units are also more compact for site-to-site travel.
One of the most important considerations is frequency of cut. How frequently  the grass is to be cut may mean opting for something other than a cylinder mower. However, where the quality of finish must be to a high standard, the frequency of cut will indicate the best size of mower in terms of power and cylinder diameter.
The longer the grass is left between cutting, the greater the power needed to cut it and the larger the cylinder diameter required. Eight-inch diameter cylinders are common for mowing on a cycle up to 10 days whereas 10" diameter cylinders are appropriate for mowing programmes of 10 days and longer.
But consider the location — grass is likely to grow more rapidly in the wetter North West than in East Anglia.
There is also the number of blades to consider.  It is the number of blades that determines the quality of the final cut.  For municipal work and other areas where the grass tends to be left longer before cutting, it is common to use an eight-inch cylinder with four knives. A cylinder with six knives will give a better quality of cut but for fine turf, including golf and greens applications, the eight- or 11-bladed cylinder is required.
For use on fairways, Ransomes Jacobsen has combined the low profile and light footprint of the Jacobsen LF-3400 with the larger, seven-inch diameter cylinders of the LF-3800.
Launching the new model at Saltex 2004 in Windsor, product manager Tim Lansdell said: “The LF-3407 is ideally suited to golf courses that have reasonably flat, gently undulating fairways and don’t really need the power found in the LF-3800. The larger, seven-inch cylinders are better equipped to cope with longer grass, should this need arise.”
Whether or not it is worthwhile investing in four-wheel drive will depend on the site and terrain. Working on slopes and in the wet will be easier if four-wheel drive is available but two-wheel drive units remain the cheaper and more popular option for inner-city areas where a slightly smaller machine is of benefit for cutting between trees and obstacles.
The service requirements and maintenance of the machine should be investigated to ensure the mower is not going to spend the busy period waiting for oil changes and belt-tensioning in the workshop.
Choice of fuel is another consideration — and one where the options are increasing. You may have a preference for petrol or diesel but LPG-powered equipment continues to gain favour in the environmental stakes and there are a few electric options where air and noise pollution are the main issues. The latest development is a hybrid mower.
Launched at the British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association’s Turf Management Exhibition in Harrogate in January, the John Deere 2500E is the first greens mower to combine conventional diesel power with electric motors. With this machine the company has eliminated 102 potential hydraulic leak points but with no sacrifice of power or cutting performance.
Since 90 per cent of leaks occur from the hydraulics, John Deere has removed all hydraulics from the cutting unit drive circuit and replaced them with electric reel motors. But there are no batteries to charge. Instead, this mower uses a traditional JD three-cylinder 20hp diesel engine to drive an alternator and provide power to the cutting units via the electric reel mowers. The result is a quiet, environmentally friendly machine with no potential for hydraulic leaks.

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