By way of a long-overdue update to this thread, I did end up purchasing a Gravely Pro-Stance — two of them, actually — for my 2021 start-up. I decided on the Pro-Stance after demoing the below four machines:
2017Scag V-Ride II w/ 52" Velocity+ deck
2019Gravely Pro-Stance w/52" X-Factor II deck
2017Ferris SRS Z2 w/52" iCD deck
2019 Kubota SZ26-52 w/52" ACS deck
My demos of the Scag, Gravely, and Ferris are all detailed in this thread, while my experience with the Kubota is documented here for those interested.
From an operational standpoint, the Ferris SRS Z2 was actually my favorite machine of the four. But non-adjustable anti-scalp wheels, the lack of any discharge side anti-scalp wheel, divot-producing front casters, a janky left-handed deck lift / HOC adjustment, and the lack of any good propane bottle mounting locations on the chassis were drawbacks.
The Gravely Pro-Stance was a close second to the Ferris Z2 in terms of my preferred ride, due primarily to its buttery-smooth transaxles, great side-hill traction, and foot-operated deck lift mechanism. Dry cut quality was only slightly behind the Ferris as well.
The Kubota SZ26-52 was a bit of a dream machine of sorts, inasmuch that it possessed many of the innovative features of the Ferris Z2 with none of what I perceived as its cons. The amount of customization this machine offers is really incredible, and you can tell a lot of thought went into the design. The only downfall was that my demo was snowed under, so I was never able to test cut quality.
The Scag V-Ride II was far and away my least favorite machine to operate. The pump-and-motor transaxles were really difficult to operate smoothly, traction was awful, the motor constantly bogged, blade changes are overly complicated, and the entire design just felt outclassed by the others. In fairness, this machine may have simply been configured incredibly poorly by my local dealer.
Why I Chose The Gravely Pro-Stance
If the Ferris SRS Z2 was actually my favorite machine to operate overall, you may be wondering why I chose the Pro-Stance instead. Here's the main reasons:
Initial Cost — I had a goal of starting my business on a given budget, which included the cost of a dependable truck and trailer. A new mower simply wasn't in the cards, which meant I needed to find a machine in good condition with low hours on the used market. This effectively ruled out the Kubota (introduced in 2019) and the Ferris (new in 2017) as there were no/very few used options on the market. Conversely, there were far more Gravely Pro-Stances in my set price range.
Deck Lift — My business model (and personal preference) dictates the use of a stander rather than a traditional sit-down ZRT. One of the main drawbacks of standers compared to ZRT's is that it is much more difficult to feather the deck over uneven terrain to avoid scalping. The Ferris SRS Z2 deck lift requires the use of the left-hand, making it even more difficult to feather on the fly for a righty like myself. However, the foot-operated deck lift pedal on the Gravely is a perfect solution. It works exceedingly well to avoid any and all scalping, which is probably one of the most obvious cut quality issues to the average homeowner.
Propane Compatibility — My goal is to operate my business with as small of an environmental footprint as possible, with the ultimate goal of being gas-free in terms of equipment operation. This is for multiple reasons, chief among them being the convenience factor, operator health, far lower operational costs, environmental considerations, and the ability to market myself differently. The location of the front muffler shield as well as the fender-mounted deck lift and battery on the Ferris SRS Z2 left no good propane bottle mounting locations available, while the chassis of the Pro-Stance has far more potential mounting points.
Engine Options — Running an EFI rather than carbureted unit offered me a fuel savings of about $429/year. I loved the Ferris Oil Guard feature, as well as their EFI engine options. That said, Gravely came along with something even better — a marriage of propane fuel with EFI technology, via the Kohler Command Pro PCV740 powerplant in the Gravely 52 LP model. By my calculations (as listed in this Alternative Fuels forum post), this offers me a potential fuel savings of $862/year over a gas-operated EFI unit.
Controls Operation — The smoothness of the transaxles on the Gravely was far and away better than on any other machine I tested, including the Kubota. Buttery-smooth. Gave me a lot of confidence behind the sticks on challenging terrain, made striping a breeze, and allowed me to focus on other things other than struggling to maintain straight lines when striping.
So What Did I Buy?
I ended up purchasing two used Gravely Pro-Stance's last fall:
2014 Gravely Pro-Stance 48" w/X-Factor I Deck (482 hours)
2015 Gravely Pro-Stance 52" w/X-Factor II Deck (749 hours)
The 2014 unit (above right) has a 22 HP Kawasaki FX691V engine that was converted to propane with an aftermarket kit around 200 hours. Unit came with an Accelerator bagger, extra propane tank, and about a dozen sets of blades. It was well cared for and served as the personal machine of a LCO who was leaving the industry due to health reasons.
The 2015 unit (above left) was Gravely's OEM propane offering possessing a 24 HP Kohler PCV740 LP EFI engine, and came with a mulch kit preinstalled. It is in much rougher cosmetic shape, and the maintenance hadn't been kept up on it very well. I bought it from a used equipment dealer who had in turn purchased it down in Alabama, where it was beat on by a commercial crew.
I bought the 2014 unit with the 48" deck first, but came across the 2015 unit with the 52" deck a month or two later. I felt the newer deck generation, improved traction, handling, and visibility enabled by the OEM tank mounting position, addition of EFI technology, and larger deck size made it a worthy upgrade over the 2014 unit with the 48" first-generation deck.
I'm in the process of tuning both of them up over the course of the summer to get them to their max cutting performance potential, after which I plan to compare them head to head and decide which I'd like to keep.
The loser will either hit the open market or serve as a backup machine. The winner will be my baseline against which I'll compare cut quality to the Ferris SRS Z2, Kubota SZ26-52, and Mean Green SK-48, all of which still have my interest.
Gravely Pro-Stance Cut Quality
Now back to what this thread is all about — the cut quality of the Gravely X-Factor I and II decks. After performing a host of overdue mechanical repairs and maintenance, I have both the 52 and 48" units up and working and am now working on dialing in cut quality.
The 52" unit is currently set up with 12 PSI in the rear tires, 3/8" of deck rake, and Oregon Gator Blades. All baffles are removed. Cut quality is pretty good at 3.5" thus far, but I'd like to try some high lift blades to better lift my limp fescue in the dry months after it's been mashed over by those huge front casters.
Single-pass stripe quality is impressive, despite no kit being installed:
I just replaced the severely worn anti-scalp wheels and adjusted them a bit lower. I think the white stripes you see just inside the rear tire marks in the above pic may be left by the rear anti-scalp wheels, so I may need to raise them a bit higher.
Per recommendations from @fatboynormmie, I've ordered a set of notched-foil high lift blades (Oregon 91-637), and will post my findings regarding their performance in relation to the currently installed Gator blades once they arrive.
Prior to the 2020 redesign, the deck lift lever came in two varieties pending the model purchased — you can see each illustrated in the side-by-side photo of my two mowers in my last post above. There is also a foot-operated deck lift pedal to the left of the platform that enables hands-free operation.
I haven't had any issues with the deck lift lever snagging things to an undue extent, particular on the 52" model that has the handle bent 90° at the top. I mow under 18 dwarf fruit trees and haven't had any issues with it to date.
The 2020 redesign changed up the design of the deck lift lever a bit, looks to be a bit taller if anything.