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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Now that I have some experience with my 1st ZTR, I like it for the most part, but some aspects have me searching. Unless I am careful about turning, a ZTR can tear up the turf. So a front mounted mower deck articulating frame lawn mower makes more sense to me. With a ZTR its pretty easy to target the deck since you look down at it for tight spaces. But the deck in front makes more sense for positioning and getting under bushes, plantings, close work. Especially for a home owner/non-commercial application, I wonder why the articulated style mowers are not more popular in the US. Bolen used to make one way back in the 70's. Heston even made one that had a cool setup for a deck or blade, or snowblower and even had a bed in back:

Husqvarna and Stiga both make them, but Husqvarna is about the only brand available in limited areas in the US. Stiga is very uncommon in the US. There is an older Husky 970 for sale locally for $650, but it has no hydrostat drive. Looks like this one:

Many of the larger newer Husky articulating mowers are designed for a mower deck, a snowblower, even a snow blade. And they are rated for towing a small trailer. Most ZTRs are not rated for towing, though I bet many of them are towing loads. Just seems to me that these articulating mowers make more sense for home use than a ZTR. For a commercial lawn care company I can see a ZTR makes more sense. These Huskys even have some neat maintenance features:
 

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On the commercial end, the two "front-mount deck" OEMs that come to my mind are Woods and Walker.

Neither are cheap new as they are for professional applications. They're models are built like tanks and usually last 20 years or better.

The best places to look for a good used one is at government auctions (City, County, or State) and golf courses.

I sold several good Woods and Walker front-mount mowers when I was managing equipment disposals for the City of Atlanta a few years ago. Some were out of the mid-80's, with 3-4,000 hours on them and still ran strong.

Of course, they had engine rebuilds and replacements, but the chassis, drives, and decks were still in good shape. The going price at our on-line auctions was usually less than $1,000, because people didn't realize what they were in the way of a beast of a mower.

Woods
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Walker


Notice neither one pictured has "spindles".... They are both mechanical shaft drives, which means they offered snowblowers as attachments. I sold one Woods for Atlanta that had a 84" deck and the blades were driven by hydraulic motors. It went for $1,200 and the guy drove it on his trailer.
 

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The Kubota F series is front deck, also Ford\NewHolland and even Deere has a front deck mower.
They are not articulated but are rear steer and very handy and tough mowers.
F2000 1.jpg
rhinohide canopy right side.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Right, lots of front deck commercial mowers. Friend of mine has a JD F series front deck mower. But those are better suited to large rural yards. For my 1/2 acre in city lot with lots of large mature trees its either a ZTR or maybe an articulating near zero turn mower. I do think for my yard the articulating mower is a better choice. That or I find a smaller frame/deck ZTR with at least 20hp and commercial grade transaxles.

Parker used to sell a lot of hyd motors to power those mower/deck spindles. Now, many of those are changing to electric motors to power the mower/deck spindles. That's one reason Parker got into electric motors years ago.
 

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I have found that I can trim around a 10" tree in a circle with my front mount, so what would be the advantage of a zero turn or articulated?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
That's my point. A front mount or articulated mower turns tight enough to suit most access needs. Difference is with an articulated mower it avoids the "scrubbing" action of tires on turf. Standard front steer lawn tractors turn tight by extreme steer angles which also cause the tires to dig/scrub on the turf. ZTR "rear steer" by changing the speed of each wheel. But the tire inside the turn, even turning much slower than the outside tire can scrub the turf significantly. An articulated frame has very little to no tire scrub to turn very tight.
 

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"Front mounts" are usually way longer than a mid-mount ZTR. It takes most people some time to get used to operating a mower with a front mount deck. That "tail swing" has most people banging into a lot of stuff they normally wouldn't hit at first.

You also might want to consider....
1) None of the front mounts customers have brought to me have fit on my 96" lift tables because they are longer

2) The smallest deck I've personally seen on a front mount was 52"... 60" or better is common because for the most part they're commercial grade machines designed to cover a lot of ground in a hurry.

You might want to go to a dealer that offers front-mounts and take a new one for a test drive to validate the idea one will work in your unique situation. You'll notice the length difference and the tail swing right off the bat.....
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Good point about tail swing! Certainly an issue on a rear steer chassis, that a ZTR doesn't do because it turns on itself. But again, it makes a positive argument for an articulated chassis front deck: no tail swing, the rear track matches the front, no tire scrub, the grass is cut before the tires roll over it, turns tight for access, you can sneak the deck under things, you have a sight line right to the deck (better than a ZTR). Some articulated chassis even pivot in the middle so the deck follows the turf while the tires stay flat to the turf. So given all that I'm still surprised articulated rider mowers are not more prevalent in the US market for residential use. They steer like a car, don't have to learn two handle steering, foot control for forward/reverse while hands steer, and they can handle more attachments that a ZTR cannot handle as well.
 

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It's the price my friend.... A guy can run down to Lowes, or Home Depot, this time of year and buy a cheap z-turn for under $2K and think he's getting a deal. When you start talking $5K and up, guys have heard their buddies talking about Scag, or Exmark.

You're a bike guy.... That same behavior has sold a whole lot of Harleys over the years.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Yeah. True. If you look at the frame of a typical ZTR, if it's not a stamped steel frame the weldment if a ZTR frame is really simple, even with the front arms for the wheel spindles. Basically a ZTR frame is a flat rectangle, exceptions being the Cub Cadet or Spartan chassis. A rectangle is a really easy shape to jig, and easy to manufacture. That reduces manufacturing costs. A ZTR has no steering linkages, no steering wheel, tie rods, steering knuckles, no structure to support a dash panel/steering wheel. Those savings can go into the transaxles, which are direct mounted to the chassis (exceptions being ZTRs with suspension systems, like Simplicity).

An articulated frame requires a LOT more engineering and manufacturing effort. That chassis pivot has to be strong and tight for stability, which means those chassis components have to be a lot more stout than a simple rectangular flat tubing frame like a typical ZTR. The "steering" system on an articulated chassis, even though it is all simple and mechanical, is more complicated than the control levers and linkages of a ZTR. Simpler means less cost, easier to manufacture, usually means better profit margin in the market. Less cost to build, but easier to market "value" = more profit.
 

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We bought a Toro ZTR in 2018, and I hated it from the start. My wife liked it, and as she cuts the main part of the lawn, we kept it. Lately, she's been complaining of the tires digging into the lawn (something I already knew), so we tried knobbier tires, which really didn't help either. Now, we're talking about selling it and buy a different mower. I've got a line on a Husky that we're thinking of looking at. I've always liked the front deck mowers. My mother had a Bolens Lawn Keeper back in the 60's.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
I'm picking mine up Saturday morning. Feel I got a deal on a R120S for $500. I've seen used ones for for four times that amount. Check your local Facebook Marketplace, there is a Husqvarna 330 articulating 4WD mower in Missouri for $2500. Another Rider16 for sale in Goshen IN for $750. SLE Implement in TN sells the articulated Huskys.
 

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Don't know of a single commercial lawn guy that doesn't run a ZTR. It would seem they would lose a lot of customers if they were tearing up the lawns of the people that are paying them to mow.

It's all in the tires, and the mowing technique. "Knobbier" tires is the exact opposite of the solution. The pros run something like these and don't make 180 degree turn "bat turns". They're probably running much heavier machines than your Toro also, but yet people are still paying them to mow their grass.... Would that be happening if they were experiencing the same thing as you with a Z-turn? I wonder how golf courses get away without having complaints?

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Yeah, i am learning with my ZTR that the Y turn, or 3-point turn is the way to change direction with out tearing up the turf. That or just make bigger circles that keep both drive tires moving. Or carefully keep one wheel rolling forward while the other wheel rolls rearward at near the same speed. I'm surprised no ZTR makers haven't marketed a "No Mar" turning setting that keep the tires moving like an open differential.
 

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Cub Cadet makes a ZTR with a steering wheel. The front wheels are steered, not caster wheels. They have a simple linkage that connects the front wheels and the rear wheel drives so you can't scuff the turf.
 

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Most of the time special purpose means 'make it yourself'. Here's one I just completed. It is all wheel drive, Subaru powered and I also made a plow for it and modified a Bolens 1948 blower with a 22 HP Honda

IMG_4317.JPG Driveshaft 2.JPG Turning and twisting joint.JPG
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Got the used Husqvarna R120S I bought home today. $400. Busted deck belt, and one arm for a deck wheel is busted at the weld. A ratchet strap holds it together for now. I matched the busted deck belt to a generic Dayco 4L109 belt (4L section, 109") and got it installed. Runs good, cuts well, even without sharpening the blades. Even cuts decent in reverse. Seating position is like a ZTR, but with a steering wheel, left foot brake (which ZTRs do not have) larger right foot pedal for forward, smaller far right foot pedal for reverse. Very easy to steer and operate, and its really nice to see the mower deck right out in front. The foot pedals make it very easy to sneak in close with total control, and back out smoothly. Right machine for my yard.
 

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What!? No pix? I bought a 2003 Rider 155 yesterday for $425. Already ordered an idler pulley and the mulching plate. Fairly new battery and a different seat. It will also need a fuel shutoff solenoid for around a hundred bucks. But I see complete carbs on ebay for $20. I had put a $30 carb on a Sears and it really ran well. Will eventually be replaceing belts and sharpening the blades. Had to power wash all the dog crap off the tires today. What a stink. There are parts missing, but as long as it does the job, we're happy.

BTW, a guy from the Chicago area stopped by Thursday to buy two rear wheel weights for a Bolens (he collects Bolens), and he was pulling a trailer with 13 Lawn Boy mowers of various vintages, and 2 LB snow blowers. He was taking them to a collector in MO. What a sight!
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"Right machine for my yard"
Yep... Felt the same way about marrying an ex-wife the 1st day after the wedding. Eventually the wheels fell off, was broke all the time, and cost me a hell of a lot of money by the time I got out of it......:)

The good thing about a lawn mower when you realize you made a mistake is you can always put it on the curb with a big sign "Free for the taking". With a wife, they make you call the Lawyer you saw on a billboard that was advertising "Low Cost Divorce", while driving the U-haul to the Budget Storage, and finding out there is no such thing....:rolleyes:
 
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