Two-wheelers find uses in all sectors of horticulture — from commercial nurseries to parks and gardens, and particularly in conservation work — not only because they are at home on difficult or restricted-access sites, but also because of the vast range of equipment they can power. You can use them to mow, scarify or aerate, cultivate the ground, sweep and even chip and shred branches and green-waste material. Attach a seat and trailer and they are instantly converted into ride-on, four-wheel hauling machines to transport tools and materials.
Being narrow — there are some models as slim as 50cm — two-wheeled tractors have an enviable profile that slips neatly through gateways for landscaping works in back gardens. But the power rating, combined with a light footprint, also makes them suitable for sensitive habitats, such as conservation meadows or reed beds, where they can mow, turn, collect and bale the hay.
Many two-wheeled tractors available in the UK originate from the hilly regions of Switzerland and Italy. They have been built with hill climbing in mind but are not just for extreme situations. Most are offered with a choice of tyres, so they can be used on turf. It may be worth investing in cage wheels as an extra if you frequently work on soft ground.
The choice of engine brands in any range of tractor is huge and includes Acme, Briggs & Stratton, Honda, Kawasaki, Kohler, Lombardini and Ruggerini, to name but a few. And new for 2006, the Rapid range of products now includes Hatz diesel-engined versions of the Universo and Euro units. These machines also have the option of a new type of operator presence control (OPC) in the form of touch-sensitive handles.
Whether you want 5hp or 20hp and prefer petrol or diesel, there are plenty of options. A lot of models have mechanical gears, but hydrostats are also available. Just make sure there is sufficient power to run the attachments needed now and those you might want to collect in the future.
The power unit can set you back anywhere between £1,000 and £9,000 so, just as you would with a conventional tractor, you will want to make the most of the investment by picking appropriate attachments. Consider your business as it is today, the sites and clients you work for and the type of work you do. Well- chosen attachments may allow you to expand in the future, take on different jobs or offer more services.
Attachments, like the machine itself, should be easy to use and quick and easy to fit. Remember, if your work involves both mowing and cultivation, you will need a tractor unit with handlebars that turn through 180?. In all cases, handlebar adjustment should be simple, but make sure you ask the dealer for a demonstration to see exactly what is involved.
Handlebars should also adjust up and down to allow a comfortable work position to be maintained and should offset for work alongside hedges or fences and when cultivating soil.
Vibration levels, noise and emissions are key areas to investigate. Clearly, the operator needs to be as safe and comfortable as possible when using the kit, but the public and the environment should also be considered, especially when working in residential areas or environmentally sensitive sites. The importance of health and safety cannot be over-emphasised. All machines should now be supplied with data concerning the levels of noise and vibration. Take notice of them. And make sure the machines, plus the attachments, have CE markings. Check the guarding around moving parts and that the position of the exhaust is not going to make your work unpleasant or dangerous.
Reliability, ruggedness and durability are also important, since the tractor will be working outdoors and may be exposed to harsh conditions. Investigate the running costs and find out about service requirements and maintenance. Spare parts and accessories need to be readily available through the dealer.
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