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Old 04-09-2011, 01:22 AM
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MOturkey MOturkey is online now
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An Afternoon on the Cheetah

Demoed a Cheetah today with the Vanguard engine, and thought I'd pass along my thoughts. Please remember that I haven't been on anything but a Gravely since 2002.

I tried the Cheetah for two reasons, one being they offered me fleet pricing, which got the price down to even lower than a Gravely Promaster. The other was that I hoped the operator suspension package would allow greater speed on larger properties, hence trimming cutting time. I'm just going to give my thoughts on the machine in a more or less random manner.

First off, the suspension. First yard, one that is pretty rough, I was sorely disappointed. I found I could go no faster than with my Gravely and its suspension seat, and could easily cause enough bounce in the machine to cause momentary loss of ignition. When I was through with the first property, I checked the tires, and found that whoever prepped the machine at the dealer's aired them to 34 lbs! Dropped them to the recommended 12 pounds, which definitely improved the ride the rest of the day.

However, remembering that my experience with other makes is limited, I believe that if anyone purchases the Cheetah just on the basis of being able to mow more quickly because of the suspension, they are going to be disappointed. I think there are two factors at play here, one being the run-flat caster tires. If I bought a Cheetah, the first thing I'd do is replace them with pneumatic tires, that would definitely eliminate a good portion of the jolt you receive when the front tires encounter a rough spot.

The other is the non-pivoting front end. I know most of you use mowers that don't pivot, but I've always run my Gravely's with the pivot unlocked. It is a substantially different ride than one with a locked front end, much more forgiving, since the pivoting action often absorbs a substantial amount of any caster impact. For those of you who never run anything with a pivoting caster arm, then you'd never notice the difference. I do.

Here is what I thought of the ride, and remember that anything like this is subjective, someone else might think differently. If I had to put a percentage in the improved ride quality, compared to what I've been operating for years, which are Gravely Pro-Masters with pivoting front ends, pneumatic caster tires aired to around 14 -15 pounds, and drive tires at 12-15 psi, I'd rate it perhaps 10% better, on rough ground, at the very most. On rough ground, the Cheetah will still jar your teeth if you push the throttle too far, just like every other mower I've ever operated.

That said, the ride on smoother stretches is very comfortable. The seat is much softer than the Michigan seats I'm used to, and that coupled with the suspension gives you almost an armchair feel, on smoother ground, at reasonable speeds. I guess what I'm trying to say, that in my opinion, the ride on truly rough ground isn't that much better, but on smooth ground, it is great, much better than just a suspension seat. So, if you mow a lot of relatively smooth acreage, you'll love the ride.

Many of the other things I noticed about the operation of the mower are merely what I believe they call "muscle memory". In other words, just things you get used to operating any type of machinery or vehicle. You use one a while, and all the little things like starting sequence, amount of lever throw, etc., just become second nature to you.

I've always been a champion of power deck lifts. I love the hydraulic lift on my Gravely's, and it is almost a necessary option for my wife, who suffers from arthritis, and has had knee replacements. For myself, the manual deck lift by itself wouldn't be a deal breaker. It works easier than any other I've ever tried, is on the right (I have a bad left ankle), and the little lever stop they have to hold the deck up for loading and unloading works great. In other words, if you have to have a manual deck lift, this is the one to have.

The cut was terrific, something I fully expected from the Velocity deck, due to all the positive feedback I read on here, albeit not under challenging conditions at all, with the grass dry and only one week's growth.

Now, for the speed. Even though I don't believe the average user is going to be able to significantly increase their cutting speed with the Cheetah, unless you mow smooth, open ground, the speed in the higher range will definitely get you some looks when you use it to zip back across the parking lot! I only used the higher range once, just to see how fast it would run down the street, and the thing took off like a race car. My Gravely is supposed to run 13, and I know the Cheetah is rated at 16, but it felt much more than 3 mph faster. Now, as for the advertised "shift on the fly", that ain't going to happen, in my opinion. The shift lever is in somewhat of an awkward position, right by your left side, so I don't reasonably see how anyone could actually shift from one range to the other and maintain control of the machine moving at any speed at all. No matter, because first gear is all the average person is ever going to need when mowing.

Other little touches are nice, such as the adjustable operatng levers, but for most people, they are probably like the adjustable steering colums on your vehicle. You set them one time, and never touch it again for as long as you own the car.

One thing I didn't care for was the smaller area for your feet, compared to what I'm used to. The deck area of the Gravely is huge, while the Cheetah's is somewhat cramped, and not quite long enough for me to stretch my legs out straight in front of me. They also should add a rough plate on the deck to be used for a step. The step all the way to the operator compartment deck is a long one. I could do it, but my wife, for example, couldn't, and stepping onto the smooth deck surface could easily result in a slip, if your feet were wet.

The parking brake also seems a little awkward with its extremely long throw. At full release position, it is horizontal to the deck, requiring the operator to bend completely at the waist to grasp it. A short person might not notice this as much, but I did at 6'1".

One thing I REALLY liked is the way the ROPS folds into the back of the machine, getting it completely out of the way. On our Gravely's, even folded, the thing is still a limb catcher. The Scag design is far superior.

Overall, I felt the Cheetah to be a very well made machine, and would not hesitate to purchase one, if I felt it met my needs better than the Gravely's I've been running. If my wife were not involved in the decision making process, I honestly feel it would be pretty much a 50/50 prospect as to whether or not my next mower was the Scag or another Gravely. Since my wife helps me quite a lot, and I couldn't really find any area I thought the Scag was head and shoulders above the Gravely in design or function, we'll be buying another Gravely, largely because of the hydraulic deck lift option.
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Old 04-09-2011, 03:26 AM
StanWilhite StanWilhite is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MOturkey View Post
Demoed a Cheetah today with the Vanguard engine, and thought I'd pass along my thoughts. Please remember that I haven't been on anything but a Gravely since 2002.

I tried the Cheetah for two reasons, one being they offered me fleet pricing, which got the price down to even lower than a Gravely Promaster. The other was that I hoped the operator suspension package would allow greater speed on larger properties, hence trimming cutting time. I'm just going to give my thoughts on the machine in a more or less random manner.

First off, the suspension. First yard, one that is pretty rough, I was sorely disappointed. I found I could go no faster than with my Gravely and its suspension seat, and could easily cause enough bounce in the machine to cause momentary loss of ignition. When I was through with the first property, I checked the tires, and found that whoever prepped the machine at the dealer's aired them to 34 lbs! Dropped them to the recommended 12 pounds, which definitely improved the ride the rest of the day.

However, remembering that my experience with other makes is limited, I believe that if anyone purchases the Cheetah just on the basis of being able to mow more quickly because of the suspension, they are going to be disappointed. I think there are two factors at play here, one being the run-flat caster tires. If I bought a Cheetah, the first thing I'd do is replace them with pneumatic tires, that would definitely eliminate a good portion of the jolt you receive when the front tires encounter a rough spot.

The other is the non-pivoting front end. I know most of you use mowers that don't pivot, but I've always run my Gravely's with the pivot unlocked. It is a substantially different ride than one with a locked front end, much more forgiving, since the pivoting action often absorbs a substantial amount of any caster impact. For those of you who never run anything with a pivoting caster arm, then you'd never notice the difference. I do.

Here is what I thought of the ride, and remember that anything like this is subjective, someone else might think differently. If I had to put a percentage in the improved ride quality, compared to what I've been operating for years, which are Gravely Pro-Masters with pivoting front ends, pneumatic caster tires aired to around 14 -15 pounds, and drive tires at 12-15 psi, I'd rate it perhaps 10% better, on rough ground, at the very most. On rough ground, the Cheetah will still jar your teeth if you push the throttle too far, just like every other mower I've ever operated.

That said, the ride on smoother stretches is very comfortable. The seat is much softer than the Michigan seats I'm used to, and that coupled with the suspension gives you almost an armchair feel, on smoother ground, at reasonable speeds. I guess what I'm trying to say, that in my opinion, the ride on truly rough ground isn't that much better, but on smooth ground, it is great, much better than just a suspension seat. So, if you mow a lot of relatively smooth acreage, you'll love the ride.

Many of the other things I noticed about the operation of the mower are merely what I believe they call "muscle memory". In other words, just things you get used to operating any type of machinery or vehicle. You use one a while, and all the little things like starting sequence, amount of lever throw, etc., just become second nature to you.

I've always been a champion of power deck lifts. I love the hydraulic lift on my Gravely's, and it is almost a necessary option for my wife, who suffers from arthritis, and has had knee replacements. For myself, the manual deck lift by itself wouldn't be a deal breaker. It works easier than any other I've ever tried, is on the right (I have a bad left ankle), and the little lever stop they have to hold the deck up for loading and unloading works great. In other words, if you have to have a manual deck lift, this is the one to have.

The cut was terrific, something I fully expected from the Velocity deck, due to all the positive feedback I read on here, albeit not under challenging conditions at all, with the grass dry and only one week's growth.

Now, for the speed. Even though I don't believe the average user is going to be able to significantly increase their cutting speed with the Cheetah, unless you mow smooth, open ground, the speed in the higher range will definitely get you some looks when you use it to zip back across the parking lot! I only used the higher range once, just to see how fast it would run down the street, and the thing took off like a race car. My Gravely is supposed to run 13, and I know the Cheetah is rated at 16, but it felt much more than 3 mph faster. Now, as for the advertised "shift on the fly", that ain't going to happen, in my opinion. The shift lever is in somewhat of an awkward position, right by your left side, so I don't reasonably see how anyone could actually shift from one range to the other and maintain control of the machine moving at any speed at all. No matter, because first gear is all the average person is ever going to need when mowing.

Other little touches are nice, such as the adjustable operatng levers, but for most people, they are probably like the adjustable steering colums on your vehicle. You set them one time, and never touch it again for as long as you own the car.

One thing I didn't care for was the smaller area for your feet, compared to what I'm used to. The deck area of the Gravely is huge, while the Cheetah's is somewhat cramped, and not quite long enough for me to stretch my legs out straight in front of me. They also should add a rough plate on the deck to be used for a step. The step all the way to the operator compartment deck is a long one. I could do it, but my wife, for example, couldn't, and stepping onto the smooth deck surface could easily result in a slip, if your feet were wet.

The parking brake also seems a little awkward with its extremely long throw. At full release position, it is horizontal to the deck, requiring the operator to bend completely at the waist to grasp it. A short person might not notice this as much, but I did at 6'1".

One thing I REALLY liked is the way the ROPS folds into the back of the machine, getting it completely out of the way. On our Gravely's, even folded, the thing is still a limb catcher. The Scag design is far superior.

Overall, I felt the Cheetah to be a very well made machine, and would not hesitate to purchase one, if I felt it met my needs better than the Gravely's I've been running. If my wife were not involved in the decision making process, I honestly feel it would be pretty much a 50/50 prospect as to whether or not my next mower was the Scag or another Gravely. Since my wife helps me quite a lot, and I couldn't really find any area I thought the Scag was head and shoulders above the Gravely in design or function, we'll be buying another Gravely, largely because of the hydraulic deck lift option.
Hey MoTurkey, try letting the air pressure down to about 9 psi in both the "run flats" and the "rears"....it makes a huge difference in the ride of every mower I've ever been on.

It doesn't seem like 3 or 4 lbs would matter much, but when it's at that critical point of inflation (between 9 and 12 or 13), it really makes a surprising difference. If you try that, let us know what you think.
Stan
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Old 04-09-2011, 08:15 AM
SouthSide Cutter SouthSide Cutter is offline
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I have run flats and pneumatic and the pneumatic on the front make a big difference on ride. And will be changing the run flats out. I run the rears at 12lb.

I know what people say but I run a Cheetah in some rough ground and also run a Ferris. And the Ferris beat it hands down.

But the main thing to me is I don't wont to run that fast in rough ground because it will just beat the dog chit out of the mower. You may ride better but the mower will suffer and so will the cut.

And I like the foot lever for the deck its fast and simple. When running my TC and then getting on my TT its like I get into a lounge chair. The TT justs has more room and feels better. But my TC has its place.

The Cheetah just isn't for me.
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Old 04-09-2011, 08:59 AM
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GMLC GMLC is offline
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Thanks for the good honest review. Greatly appreciated!
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Old 04-09-2011, 09:58 AM
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watsmi57 watsmi57 is offline
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thanks for the great review. it makes me feel better about my Gravely . i never got a chance to look at a Scag in person since i have no local dealer but everyone says they are some of the best machines. i liked the folding ROPS too but i noticed that smaller operator platform and didn't like it either. i always wondered if that pivoting front axle makes a big difference.

i think this reinforces something else i believe. as long as you stay high end. i think they are all very similiar machines. it just depends on what you personally like, and of course good dealer support.
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