I recently had the opportunity to demo a Hustler Trimstar Hydro, 48” cut. This is currently the larger of the two hydro Trimstars that Hustler offers. The demo unit was a 48” floating deck and paired with a 17 HP Kawasaki KAI series engine, twin cylinder and recoil start. The Trimstar is also available in a 36” floating deck and a 15 HP Kawasaki KAI series engine. Regardless of which variation of the Trimstar you select, you will be getting Hustler’s exclusive H-Bar Plus steering system that allows the mower to be steered effortlessly like a bicycle, as well as a separate forward speed control lever and the ability to roll back on the H-Bar grips to slow down, stop momentarily, or reverse. Zero radius turns are also possible with the H-Bar Plus. When you first look at the Trimstar, the first thing that comes to mind is “clean”. Thanks to the use of Hydro Gear’s IZT hydro transmission, this setup eliminates the separate pumps, wheel motors, and hydro fluid reservoir that is very common with a lot of dual hydro walk behinds on the market. Doing so also eliminates the exposed high pressure hoses that maybe prone to leaking and chafing. Everything is contained underneath the Trimstar’s engine deck; no transmission parts are exposed save for the transmission selector lever, which I will go in depth about later. Looking solely at the quality of manufacture for the mower, all welds are very clean, fit and finish in general of the mower’s parts are tight and precise. The instrument panel is uncluttered. There is your throttle lever, separate choke control knob, key ignition, PTO switch, and hour meter. A 5 gallon fuel tank holds enough gas for a full day’s worth of cutting, and a convenient sight line allows you to view the fuel level at a glance. The Trimstar’s wide drive tires provide stability on uneven ground and hillsides, and promote excellent traction as well in both dry and wet conditions. Nothing needs to be said about the Kawasaki KAI series engine. You’ll find this engine used a lot on commercial mowers. The KAI series provides plenty of torque and power, and its low-tone muffler makes the engine sound very pleasing to the ears even when running at full throttle. The recoil start is indexed towards the operator; making pull starts easy as well as possible inside of an enclosed trailer. Not all LCO’s have open trailers! This 17 HP twin cylinder engine is very easy to pull start, so Hustler can lower the cost [and eliminate a couple items of maintenance] of the Trimstar. The 48” deck is made of 11 gauge steel with 11 gauge doublers on the spindle area of the deck, a reinforced leading edge and welded on trim side rub guard. The deck is very solid. It is built using Hustler’s exclusive XR-7 deck technology, with the reinforced front and rear baffles, and an extra thick rubber discharge chute. There is a pair of anti scalp wheels positioned in the middle of the front of the deck. The deck cover is made of steel and features a laser cut Trimstar logo. The cover is secured to the deck carrier frame by 4 large knobs. Speaking of the deck carrier frame, it’s thick tubing gives rigidity especially to obstacles that the caster wheels encounter. The caster wheels themselves are semi-pneumatic to eliminate time wasting repairs for flats. For that matter, the drive wheels come from the factory with sealant inside to reduce flats. Typical of any floating deck midsize walk behind, the mower deck is suspended from 4 points and height of cut can be easily adjusted by repositioning the pins at each point. As mentioned before, the Trimstar has a transmission selector lever. This permits the mower to be placed in one of three modes: drive [using engine power], parking brake, and roll [move without starting engine]. The lever is positioned at the rear of the engine deck directly behind the engine, and can be easily accessed. The parking brake is unique since it is not of a mechanical compression style. Instead the Trimstar has a sprocket-and-cog arrangement. Engage the parking brake will seat the cog in the teeth of the sprocket on each side. The mower absolutely will not budge. The only way to defeat the parking brake is for the teeth on the sprockets to shear clean off. That is something that ain’t gonna happen! The parking brake offers extreme holding ability, and is more than enough to keep the mower from rolling when transported on a trailer. Just remember to put the selector lever back into drive mode or else you will not go anywhere with the engine running! The H-Bar Plus steering system is very intuitive and easy to learn for new operators. To get underway, move your forward speed control lever out of the neutral position [neutral is the lever all the way down]. The further up you push the lever, the fast you go. To slow down, roll back slightly on the grips. Continue rolling back and you will come to a stop. Roll back even further and the mower will reverse. To go forward again, let the grips roll forward slowly and you’ll be underway again. To turn, simply turn the H-Bar in the direction you want to go. Zero radius turns are possible, and require a little practice to get down. To do a ZRT, roll back on the grips until you come to a complete stop, then turn the H-Bar in either direction. Doing so will run one drive wheel forward and the other in reverse. To go forward again, straighten the H-Bar then let the grips roll forward and you’ll be cruising again at your pre-set speed. I was able to execute ZRT’s on turf with minimal to no scuffing. All depends on how you finesse the H-Bar while you’re doing it. I might also add that the H-Bar has a steering dampener, which helps to smooth out your movements. The H-Bar Plus system is user adjustable. There is a way you can adjust the sensitivity of the H-Bar Plus controls. This is pretty neat and not a feature you see on any other dual hydro unit on the market. Another convenient feature is the ability to increase your forward speed without touching the speed control lever. Just roll forward slightly on the grips and your set speed will increase. In action, the Trimstar’s XR-7 technology deck has a lot of discharge velocity. There is plenty of lift generated by the blades to spread out clippings with no clumping, and leaves behind nice stripes. I used the Trimstar to cut thick grass that was still sopping wet from the morning dew. Even in this condition, the deck managed to cut and discharge very nicely. No problems at all were encountered with cut quality, I am very impressed with the results achieved with the Trimstar. After you get used to how the H-Bar Plus works, you can think about where you want the mower to go and it goes! Because you can slow the mower down just by rotating back on the grips, even slalom type trimming maneuvers such as working a line of evenly spaced Leyland Cyprus trees becomes effortless. Dare I say, fun as well? Due to the nature of the H-Bar Plus design, your hand positioning on the mower is within a safety zone that prevents your hand from contacting stationary objects as you perform close-in trimming. The operator presence controls are very nice as they do not require squeezing at all. Just by gripping the H-Bar Plus naturally, you are already activating the OPC. Overall, the Hustler Trimstar Hydro is a very well thought out and very well executed mower. What else does one expect from the fine folks at Hustler Turf Equipment? The mower is built overall with the same durability that many have come to trust in Hustler’s ZTR riders, providing many years of dependable service with minimal downtime. One of the major selling points of the Trimstar is the H-Bar Plus system. Yes, it is different from pistol grips and dual lever controls but you really need to experience it for yourself to realize how the responsiveness of this system can benefit you. Hustler does have available their RollOn striping sulky for it, but I think you can fit any aftermarket sulky to it. I can only imagine what an operator can do with one of those fixed [castering wheels] sulkies that keep the operator centered behind the controls even through turns. I did encounter one slight problem with the H-Bar grips as apparently, they were not glued on at the factory and halfway through the evaluation period, my twisting loosened them up a bit. Talking about this with the local Hustler sales rep, he told me that one can use 3M window stripping adhesive to secure the grips on. He did confirm that they are supposed to glue the grips on at the factory, and that he’ll mention to them that the demo unit that I borrowed apparently didn’t have adhesive, or maybe even enough adhesive. The grip issue notwithstanding, the Trimstar Hydro does live up to manufacturer’s claims. No hype here, folks!