Honda HRX review
As some of you know, I've been discussing hand mowers for the past year. My LawnBoy DuraForce was a very big hassle last season, and I was waiting for the new LB Commercial mower entry. We all know that didn't happen because of no engines for these machines. Now, as discussed in another current thread, these machines are red, being branded as Toro mowers.
After much discussion with many on LS, and doing my own research, I ended up with a Honda HRX, self-propelled model. This is not the machine of my desire, but was the "last one standing." I didn't want the former LB entry, now a Toro, fearing it would soon be an orphan. Of all the criteria, weight of the machine was very important. Also, it has to be a good bagging machine. We use a hand mower at least 600 hours per season, mostly bagging. [Save all the discussion of bagging vs. mulching, vs. discharge for another thread -- been through that valley far too many times to repeat here. Also, save all the discussion about "no need to use a 21" mower, use a w/b instead." Again, been down that path far too many times too. Thanks.]
The HRX is 90-95#, about the lightest one that might have a chance of standing up to our needs. I do not like the idea of the Honda GCV engine, but that is all that is offered.
So this is what I have for the 2009 season. Let's also not debate the "shudda" machines either. I've spent far too much time discussing all other choices, and this is the only one that emerged as a choice.
I picked it up more than a week ago. I tried it out a little last week, but today was the first day out. I only worked three properties, but came away some initial impressions. We don't have much growth here yet, and only the "early" ones are candidates to make a mowing pass.
Engine: I like the starting, and power. I don't like the way it runs. It seems very rough, will not idle well at all (surges). Also, it seems to have quite a knock.
Fuel: The small tank is a real problem. All it will run is about 1.5 hours on a tank. That will be a problem when we run it 6-8 hours per day -- perhaps will need five refueling stops. I think the tank is only one quart.
Ground drive: It is very easy to select the speed desired, able to change speeds on the fly with the hydro transmission. Top speed is a little disappointing -- only a good brisk walk. I am doubting this will be a problem when the real heavy mowing is at hand in a couple of weeks.
Handling: It seems very cumbersome to make turns. Yes, it is a much different setup than my old LB. But, it just seems awkward to be sure to manage two handles - one to keep the BBC engaged, the other for ground drive. I'm sure time will help find better ways to handle this machine, especially on slopes and tight places.
Cut: The quality of cut was much better than expected. To be sure, I'm cutting pretty low on the first cut. But, whether in bag mode, or mulch mode, the cut surface was picture perfect. This may change when we start to work at higher cutting heights, and have heavier cutting requirements. But, at first cuts, I am pleasantly surprised. It is on par with my old LB, and that is one of the LB's greatest assets.
Clipping handling: I tried some areas with the Versa-cut knob in the full mulch position. The results were good, but not much clipping burden to handle now. I am doubtful much work will be done in mulch mode in a couple of weeks. Other areas, I went to full bag mode. I can quickly see that the bag will not fill completely. I was excited about having a large bag, but now I can see all that volume cannot be utilized. The clippings enter the bag on the right side, blowing them to the rear of the bag. However, the flow of debris inside the bag must swirl some of the debris up the the front, on the left side. With the bag partially full, the front of the bag on the left side will have a wall of debris. When lifting the bag out, that wall of debris will falter, and some debris will fall out. It looks like there will always be a small pile of debris fall from the front of the open bag to the ground, even when the bag is partially full. This can lead to a mess to be cleaned up after every bag change. Maybe I will find a better way to remove the bag.
I did try the partial bag/partial mulch function, putting the knob at the 8/10 position toward full mulch. This left only a small opening in the discharge chute for debris. I don't know how much savings this meant. I suspect not very much. All the other openings (e.g. 1/10, 4/10, 6/10), are probably worthless. But, in more difficult cutting, I envision the small opening to quickly clog, putting the mower into full mulch mode. Time will tell how well this feature works for grass cutting. I'm not optimistic.
I did have one lawn that had some Fall leaves that blew into a hedge, and along a bed. I raked/blowed them out onto the turf, put the knob into full mulch mode, made a couple of passes, and swung the knob to full bag, and made another pass -- zippo, mulched leaves were quickly put into the bag! A half tarp of leaves was gone into a quarter of a bag on the mower. Great!
Conditions today were very good. The grass was not high, it was not wet, sappy growth. The sun was out (albeit only low 40s), and all was dry.
Stay tuned. I'm sure that I will have more comments as the weeks pass, and this machine gets some real service hours, under more extreme conditions.
If this information is useful to somebody else making a decision, good! If anybody who has an HRX has any comments about some of my first negative impressions, let me hear what you think, or different thoughts. Thanks.