Seeking Clarification On Gravely X-Factor I & II Deck QOC

The Swamp Fox

LawnSite Member
Location
Michigan
Hello all, new member here working on planning a solo LCO start-up. I'm currently working on drafting my initial equipment roster, and have some questions about the quality of cut associated with the Gravely X-Factor I & II deck.

When it comes to my primary mower, I've narrowed my criteria to a stand-on unit with a 52" deck. The Gravely Pro-Stance keeps cropping up as a used option with reasonable hours / price points in my area. There are multiple design features I like about the overall build quality and machine itself, but quality of cut is the attribute I place the most importance on, and what brings me to the reason for this thread.

I have read countless conflicting reports about the quality of cut of Gravely's X-Factor I & II mowing deck — to the point that I am now thoroughly puzzled as to who and what to believe regarding how this deck will likely perform in my cutting conditions involving northern grasses.

While I know that it is normal that a given deck will perform differently in southern vs. northern turf and in dry vs. wet conditions, the conflicting QOC reported by users sharing similar cutting conditions has left me utterly confused. Some report absolutely horrible clumping conditions or frustrating battles with stragglers, others report cut quality exceeding that of Scag's Velocity Plus or even Exmark's UltraCut deck.

I'd be greatly obliged if those with experience running this deck can provide some feedback on their observations, complete with their location, grass type, deck version, deck width, and blade type.

Let's start with a baseline of what I THINK I know:
  1. Gravely is based in Brillion, Wisconsin and represents the commercial lawn division of Ariens Company, who bought Gravely in 1982.

  2. The X-Factor II-series deck was introduced for the 2014 model year and differed from the X-Factor I in several ways, introducing upgraded spindles, adjustable deck baffles, a 1.5" wider deck discharge opening, and an altered discharge chute profile.

  3. The X-Factor II-series deck was modified in 2016 — at least for the sit-down, Pro-Turn 200/400-series ZRT's — to add the Constant Belt Tension (CBT) System, tool-less belt covers, a flip-up discharge chute, and a simpler deck leveling mechanism. Additional changes were made to the 72" decks in an effort to eliminate issues with clumping and poor discharge.
Now for some of the existing feedback out there on the Gravely X-F deck QOC:

@Ridin' Green — a fellow Michigander — reviewed a Gravely 48" Pro-Stance with an X-F I-series deck back in 2012, and reported that cut quality in cool season grasses was "awesome" and the discharge quality was "great". Having read a multitude of RG's past posts regarding quality of cut considerations including deck design, baffling, blade choice, etc., I consider him one of — if not THE — QOC expert here at LawnSite.
  • Ridin' commented in 2017 to the effect that he recommends steering clear of Gravely's 60-72" decks due to QOC issues. By 2018, RG is stating that the 60" X-F II-series decks have a bad reputation in the industry.
@ProStreetCamaro (Maryland) praised the performance of the X-Factor deck on northern turf back in 2012, comparing it to that of the veritable John Deere 7-Iron. He provided some pictures of cutting performance as proof. He's also on record as mentioning that QOC may vary with the condition of the underside deck paint.
@GMLC (New Hampshire) authored a definitive, 70-page Gravely Pro-Turn 452 review thread — complete with photos — back in 2012, in which he praised the cut quality of the X-F deck. A year later, he provided a detailed review of the X-Factor II-series deck performance.
  • GMLC later agreed with a statement by @ProStreetCamaro back in 2014 regarding the X-F being a nice middle ground between Exmark's tightly-baffled UltraCut and Scag's wide-open Velocity Plus. He stated that the Gravely X-F II is "the perfect in between. Its the most versatile deck IMO. Now with the XF2 you get even better results. It can be adjusted so close to the Ultra Cut and Velocity its crazy."

  • GMLC also stated in 2017 that "In dry conditions the X-Factor wins hands down. Best I have seen in many years. In wet conditions the velocity is still the best but the X-Factor is still really good. I have yet to double cut or clump."
@Mow-Daddy.com (Minnesota) commented back in 2017 that "Gravely...QOC is actually pretty dang good. And they handle wet thick grass like a champ."

@fatboynormmie (Maryland) shed some light back in 2017 on the possibility of mixed reviews on QOC (particularly on demo units) stemming from an unfamiliarity with the adjustable baffle functionality on the X-Factor II, which enables a user to dial in their ideal cutting performance. He went on to say that his Pro-Stance 52" has an excellent QOC when unbaffled and running Scag blades, and that most of the QOC complaints he's seen are related to the 60-72" decks.

@mag360 (Pennsylvania) reported in 2014 that he had proven through empirical testing that the adjustable baffles under his Pro-Turn 272 with a 72" X-F II deck were the cause of windrowing during discharge, and that the solution was to remove them entirely.

@PicturePerfectLawns (Texas) stated in 2015 that the 52" Pro-Stance is a great machine and that in his opinion, the Gravely X-F series decks were the best in the market for 36" or smaller deck sizes.

@andersman02 (Minnesota) reported back in 2016 that his Gravely Pro-Stance 52" "cuts awesome, even at full speed". I am unclear on whether his Pro-Stance had an X-F I or X-F II-series deck.

@Mikeyd (Indiana) shared in 2017 that his Gravely Pro-Stance 60" X-F II deck cuts "like crap", and that despite trying every imaginable combination of blade types and deck adjustments, he couldn't eliminate major clumping.

@Derrick Saylor (?) reported in 2017 that switching to Exmark high-lift blades on his 2017 Gravely 260 resulted in much less clumping in damp or wet conditions.

Jonathan Christian of Florida Turf Pros uploaded a YouTube video in which he mentions that removing the baffles from his Gravely Pro-Turn 452 with an X-F II-series deck completely solved a major issue with stragglers that he was having on southern grasses.

Brown Brother's Lawn Care (Kansas) uploaded a YouTube video review of a 2019 Gravely Pro-Stance 48 with an X-F II-series deck, in which they praised the cut quality as "phenomenal". At the 5:24 mark of that video, he states that Gravely's are tested in Florida, and that the OEM blades are designed for southern grasses. The Brown Brothers experienced major clumping in fescue with OEM blades at first blush until switching to high lifts.

(Post 1/2, continued below)
 
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OP
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The Swamp Fox

LawnSite Member
Location
Michigan
Summary (post 2/2)
Most of the Gravely-related threads over the last few years in particular have all turned negative, whether it be in relation to their customer service or quality of cut. My question is... what occurred to change these opinions? Did QOC degrade over time? If so, what are the theories as to why?

What I've gathered from most of the above is that the X-Factor II deck performance is highly variable and dependent on deck width, grass type, moisture content, blade type, baffle position, and even under-deck paint condition.

I like the idea of a highly configurable deck, but at the same time I don't want to dip my toe into never-ending cut quality issues either. The questions I have at this point for the peanut gallery:
  1. Are the QOC issues associated with the X-Factor decks primarily associated with the 60" and 72" sizes?

  2. Are opinions of QOC which changed over time due to under-sided deck paint wear, contributing to clumping and poor discharge over time?

  3. Were the 2016 improvements made to the X-Factor II on the Pro-Turns also rolled out to the Pro-Stances that same year?

  4. Is it the consensus that a good QOC and discharge can be obtained in northern grasses with a 52" deck with high-lift blades and the under-deck baffles removed?
Any and all input from those who have operated or demo'd Gravelys would be appreciated. Including your experiences with grass type, deck version and width, and blades used will help provide context.
 
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Ridin' Green

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Michigan
My experience on the Pro Stance was limited to a one day demo in dry conditions and it was a 48" deck, which it and the 52" seem to have a different QOC than the 60 and 72 do once more data started rolling in.

The day I demo'd the 48" it was in fact awesome, but again, it was a one day demo and in dry conditions
 
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Ridin' Green

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Michigan
I can't and won't/don't speak for anyone else here, but I can say this-

One thing that soured a LOT of us on Gravely was that they got rid of the single best rep I and many other here have ever dealt with in any brand of machine. She would get things done for guys here when dealers wouldn't or couldn't and she made demo's happen when and where needed. gravely ignorantly let her go to scale back in certain dept's. Some of us had dealings with Gravely Co.after her dismissal and they did NOT go very well.

Mary Lyn was a one of a kind rep and we all miss her here. I had some very good conversations with her on the phone and I miss those too.
 

douglee25

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
TX
I will throw in my two cents -

1. QOC is very subjective. What looks good for one person may not look great for another.
2. There's a bunch of folks on here that have a hard on for 7 iron decks or Scag/Wright decks touting their QOC - wet or dry. However, you'll see them demo a mower on youtube and the cut looks no better or worse than others in identical conditions.
3. Wet lawns require a double cut to make them presentable in my opinion. When wet lawns aren't double cut, you're compromising quality in regards to time saved. In other words, lawns that are cut with the best deck in wet conditions will STILL look better if double cut.

Now with all of that out of the way, I had a Pro turn 160 with an XF1 deck that I used in Northern Grass (TTTF) and subsequently moved to the South where I've mowed St. Augustine, Bermuda, Rye, Kentucky Blue, and **** grass/weeds that I still haven't learned yet. My deck cuts well. Period. Most of my backyard is shitty grass. If you haven't been to Texas, it's hard to get good grass to grow. A month goes by and you'll have grass in sections that's two feet tall. You'll see some stragglers after cutting. Is that expected? In my opinion, yes. Mow it again and the stragglers are gone. Any deck would do the same. The grass is too tall and doesn't have time to stand up to be cut.

I think you're reading into things too much.

Folks get a new machine and it's the best thing since sliced bread. Use it for a year and their opinion is bound to change.

Buy something that is serviced easily in your area. Put good blades on the deck. Personally level or check the level of your deck. Run a minimum 1/4" pitch on the blades. Make sure the underside of your deck is clean. Mow for the given conditions (ie don't mow at 10-12 mph in wet grass and expect great results). The mower should perform well for 80-90% of the conditions.
 

fatboynormmie

LawnSite Bronze Member
Location
balto md
Wow Swamp Fox you sure did your homework!!!
As stated above my 52” Pro-Stance cuts great 95% of the time. It is Baffle-less and I run either Scag Med lifts which are actually what I consider a high lift or I run G5’s all depending on conditions all on Northern grass and weeds.

In certain wet /sappy green conditions yes it can clump. Yes that 5% of the time can be frustrating. I honestly deal with more clumping in wet conditions due to the build up of grass on the front wheels that schucks off onto the lawn then what blows out from under the deck.

I personally tend to double cut because I have ocd about leaving clippings on the lawn. It wouldn’t matter what mower I used or use if it needs another pass to make ME happy it gets it. This is all personal preference and subjective and not any brand mowers fault. There are times like in the heat of the summer the G5’s vaporize on a single cut so they get installed on the mower and can get by with a single cut. I understand the conditions I’m cutting in and know what works for me.

Most of the year I run the Scag med lifts and they are awesome but I deal with long clippings that are fanned out nicely over the lawn but If I can see the clippings I go over it again. To some people they would consider a one and done totally acceptable but I’m particular. When I give my pricing my time is always factored in and I’m not the “cheap” guy and establish that with the Cust from the get go.

My 2 biggest complaints about the 52” ProStance are the front tires loading up with grass in wet conditions and peeling long grass clumps and the second is the deck jumps off it's height measurement if the deck is bounced hard or you forget to step on the deck pedal before turning the height selector knob. Because of this I carry a blade measure gauge with me that I tuck in the cubby on the back side of the knee pad . I check the height if I feel something’s not right and if I measure the blade to the ground and it says 3” I just rotate the selector dial till it matches that height while not stepping on the pedal and everything is all good and it’s supper easy but it’s something you have to be mindful off. Every mower I own has its own quirks. I may adjust the ProStance once a week .

Leaf time comes I install the baffles back on the mower and set them in the middle position and run low lift mulchers and it’s the best leaf eating machine I ever used and has ZERO blowout out the front of the mower. I have had mine now for 3 years and it’s made me ALOT of money!!! Have only had to do basic oil changes and fuel and air filters etc. I just noticed some oil seep from a seal on one of the tranaxles but thats just reg wear and tear and new seal is sitting on the bench and will be replaced Sat. All in all it’s not a bad mower IMO. My .02 hope it helps you!
 
OP
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The Swamp Fox

LawnSite Member
Location
Michigan
My experience on the Pro Stance was limited to a one day demo in dry conditions and it was a 48" deck, which it and the 52" seem to have a different QOC than the 60 and 72 do once more data started rolling in. The day I demo'd the 48" it was in fact awesome, but again, it was a one day demo and in dry conditions
Disclaimers duly noted. I will say that as I began attempting to sift through the various user reports over the last several days, almost all of the negative experiences with QOC were from those running 60-72" decks.

I attributed that mostly to those sizes being more common than, say, a 52", but perhaps the decks do in fact cut significantly differently. That's just the sort of thing I'm trying to get a handle on by tapping into the collective Gravely well of experience with this thread. Thanks, Ridin'!

One thing that soured a LOT of us on Gravely was that they got rid of the single best rep I and many other here have ever dealt with in any brand of machine. She would get things done for guys here when dealers wouldn't or couldn't and she made demo's happen when and where needed. gravely ignorantly let her go to scale back in certain dept's. Some of us had dealings with Gravely Co.after her dismissal and they did NOT go very well.
As I was perusing many (all???) of the 1,975,326 past threads related to Gravely machines, I saw many comments from said Mary Lyn and was impressed with her go-getter attitude. I know she garnered much respect here on the forums, and am sorry that she's now gone.
 

fatboynormmie

LawnSite Bronze Member
Location
balto md
I can't and won't/don't speak for anyone else here, but I can say this-

One thing that soured a LOT of us on Gravely was that they got rid of the single best rep I and many other here have ever dealt with in any brand of machine. She would get things done for guys here when dealers wouldn't or couldn't and she made demo's happen when and where needed. gravely ignorantly let her go to scale back in certain dept's. Some of us had dealings with Gravely Co.after her dismissal and they did NOT go very well.

Mary Lyn was a one of a kind rep and we all miss her here. I had some very good conversations with her on the phone and I miss those too.

Truer words were never spoken. I miss her too . Gravely’s change of course was disappointing ! Sorry to hi jack OP!
 
OP
T

The Swamp Fox

LawnSite Member
Location
Michigan
I will throw in my two cents -

1. QOC is very subjective. What looks good for one person may not look great for another.
2. There's a bunch of folks on here that have a hard on for 7 iron decks or Scag/Wright decks touting their QOC - wet or dry. However, you'll see them demo a mower on youtube and the cut looks no better or worse than others in identical conditions.
3. Wet lawns require a double cut to make them presentable in my opinion. When wet lawns aren't double cut, you're compromising quality in regards to time saved. In other words, lawns that are cut with the best deck in wet conditions will STILL look better if double cut.

Now with all of that out of the way, I had a Pro turn 160 with an XF1 deck that I used in Northern Grass (TTTF) and subsequently moved to the South where I've mowed St. Augustine, Bermuda, Rye, Kentucky Blue, and **** grass/weeds that I still haven't learned yet. My deck cuts well. Period. Most of my backyard is shitty grass. If you haven't been to Texas, it's hard to get good grass to grow. A month goes by and you'll have grass in sections that's two feet tall. You'll see some stragglers after cutting. Is that expected? In my opinion, yes. Mow it again and the stragglers are gone. Any deck would do the same. The grass is too tall and doesn't have time to stand up to be cut.

I think you're reading into things too much.

Folks get a new machine and it's the best thing since sliced bread. Use it for a year and their opinion is bound to change.

Buy something that is serviced easily in your area. Put good blades on the deck. Personally level or check the level of your deck. Run a minimum 1/4" pitch on the blades. Make sure the underside of your deck is clean. Mow for the given conditions (ie don't mow at 10-12 mph in wet grass and expect great results). The mower should perform well for 80-90% of the conditions.
I'm definitely cognizant of and agree with QOC being subjective. That said, it truly seemed like the turn-around in the consensus opinion on the X-Factor QOC was 180 degrees from 2012-2014 to 2017-current. I've not seen anything quite like it in all of the research on other makes / models I've done to date — seemed like something was up.

I truly appreciate your feedback regarding the XF-1 deck performance. I'm not expecting any mower I pick up to work miracles, and I plan to avoid cutting in wet conditions as far as as possible. I would much rather focus on quality over quantity! A deck that performs like you've described above would be more than adequate for my purposes.

I certainly could be over-analyzing the reports of poor QOC for the XF decks. I'm just trying to nail down whether it's a temperamental deck, or whether the fine-tune adjustability that it offers via baffling leads to more negative reports for those who haven't fully dialed it in.
 

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