We found by removing the rider you losing your traction as well so while yes when soft we attempt first without rider but once tires start to slip you have to get on it to add the weight in order to get out. The controls are also about chest high for me plus they are even with the back of the machine roughly so makes walking awkward either way and we use our walk behind in those situations. As far as hills I would rather ride obviously and same as with soft areas the operated provides the weight needed for traction. Up hill and down. We've found you and drive them up pretty much anything forwards but reverse you'll slip. Kinda like with a walker. It'll back up anything but forward will slip on a hill. I have a 36 and 52 vrides and they've worked great on hills.
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