Ride-on cylinder mowers

Be sure kit has the right balance between quality of cut and productivity to suit your needs.

No matter whether it is a golf course, football pitch, park or roadside verge — the grass always needs cutting. And since it is the most frequent operation undertaken, it is important to buy the right machine for the job.
The cutting mechanism of a cylinder mower is designed to give a good-quality finish. In some places we are concerned with quality alone, eg producing the perfect finish on the golf course or fine ornamental lawn. In other situations, quality is still important but productivity is paramount. There are ride-on cylinder mowers for both requirements.
Pedestrian models are ideal for small areas of mowing and where ‘extreme’ perfection is required. Tractor-mounted or trailed gang mowers supply the productivity for mowing vast open plains of playing fields and amenity open space.
Ride-on cylinder mowers fill the gap by working in those places that are too large for pedestrian mowers or are too intricate, or with too many obstacles, for the tractor and gang mower. Ride-ons are nippy and have the edge over tractors and gang mowers when it comes to manoeuvrability.

Frequency of cut
Frequency of cut is the all-important consideration when choosing a ride-on cylinder mower. How often the grass is to be cut may steer you away from cylinder mowers, but if a cylinder finish is required, the frequency of cut will determine the size of unit needed in terms of power. The longer the grass is left between cutting operation, the greater the power needed to cut it.
Frequency of cut will also dictate whether you should be looking at purchasing a cylinder mower with small- or large-diameter cylinders.
Ransomes Jacobsen national account manager (south) Nigel Church says: “Eight-inch diameter cylinders are common for mowing on a cycle up to 10 days. Ten-inch diameter cylinders take over for those cycles of 10 days and beyond.” Church points out that location should also be in the equation.
“In the south-west of England the grass grows more rapidly than, say, on the coast of East Anglia. The faster rate of grass growth may mean that even if the frequency of cut is on a cycle of only eight days, a 10-inch diameter cylinder should be used,” says Church.
And how many blades should be on a cylinder? The answer will be determined by the quality of cut the client requires.
Church says: “For municipal work, the eight-inch cylinder traditionally has four knives so it can cope with longer grass if the grass gets slightly out of hand. A six-knife cylinder generally gives a better quality of cut. Ten-inch diameter cylinders are sold predominantly with six-knife cylinders because they have the ability to take in longer grass, mow it and leave a good standard of finish.”
But put the same machine into a golf application — where it is quality of cut that counts — and you should ask for eight- or 11-bladed cylinders.
Whether or not four-wheel drive would be a worthwhile investment largely depends on the sites and terrains being cut. Work on slopes and in wet conditions will benefit from four-wheel drive. Two-wheel drive units, however, remain popular in inner-city areas where the slightly smaller size and nimbleness of the machines can be advantageous for cutting around street signs and lampposts or between trees in a park.
The size of the site, its openness and its awkwardness in terms of beds, borders, trees and other obstacles will indicate whether a three-unit or five-unit cylinder mower is appropriate.
Triple mowers are at home where space is tight but there are large sites where the tractor and gang mower is not sufficiently manoeuvrable for the job without having a smaller unit following to trim around the edges and around trees. This is the natural home for the five-unit ride-on, as Church explains: “It is self-contained — the operator rides on it — so it gives you more manoeuvrability than you would experience using a tractor and a set of trailed gang mowers. Parks, open spaces and school playing fields often find a five-unit ride-on can do the job that gang mowers can’t. And ride-on units are also more compact for site-to-site travel.”
As with all machinery, it is wise to see a demonstration of a shortlist of candidate mowers and assess their suitability before buying.

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