Zero-turn lawn mowers are the most popular models in use by professional landscapers today. But a handful of manufacturers are betting they’ve got an even faster, more productive mowing machine. Advocates of stand-on, riding lawn mowers say these machines are faster, lighter and more maneuverable than sit-down, ride-on machines.
Bill Wright, president of Wright Manufacturing is heralded as the father of stand-on lawn mowers and says the units suffer from misconceptions in the marketplace. “Landscapers generally feel that a sit-down machine is inherently more comfortable, more ergonomically friendly and safer to operate,” Wright notes. “But that’s not the case at all. On a sit-down mower, shock loads from bumps are transmitted directly to the operator’s lower back area. On a stand-on mower, your knees – our bodies’ natural shock absorbers – dissipate those forces long before they get to your spine. Standing operators can better see the ground around them and in the event of an emergency, simply step off the machine to avoid an accident.”
According to Dan Ariens, president of Ariens, stand-on mowers have continually evolved to better meet landscapers’ needs. “We’re now seeing floating and fixed decks enter the market as well as more powerful engines,” he says. “This is giving us safer machines with increased productivity.”
Stand-on mowers provide a number of other advantages to landscapers as well, says Ross Hawley, marketing product manager, Landscape Contractor Equipment, Toro. “First is the increased productivity that can be gained on properties with numerous obstacles,” he notes. “Stand-ons allow their operators to quickly step off the machines to move ornaments or plants, as well as pick up trash. Since there is no need to use seatbelts and adjust control levers, operators can perform these functions faster than they can on zero- turn mowers. Cemeteries are a good example of a property type where the stand-on machine has proven particularly effective and thus, grown in popularity.”
In addition, Hawley says, stand-on mowers have a compact overall footprint since they are vertically configured machines. “This provides a benefit for cutting tightly landscaped properties, as well as saving valuable trailer space,” he notes. “Contractors running stand-ons may be able to either load and transport more machines on an existing trailer or even downsize to a smaller trailer. The lighter-weight, more compact size also is more appealing to those property owners who dislike large pieces of equipment on their lawns.”
Race car engineering
Hal White, vice president, sales and marketing for Wright Manufacturing, says high-speed cutting production is what landscapers find most appealing about stand-on lawn mowers. “Speed means more than just miles per hour on a straightaway,” White says. “Because the operator rides close to the “zero turning point ” on a stand-on mower, you handle quick zero-radius turns like you’re part of the machine. Wright machines have what race car engineers call low polar moment – they can turn on a dime and they take less time to start and end U-turns, so you make up time at the end of every row.”
White says a stand-on’s low polar momentum allows for much faster turning in wide-area mowing while also allowing the machine to handle tight spaces without slowing down – including most residential gates. “On hilly terrain Wright machines excel because of their inherently low center of gravity and operator balance control. The rider can shift his weight to counter the incline of a hill, putting weight on the high drive wheel and increasing traction, power and control.”