Every so often, I get reminded that FWF is still alive here.
In my experience I bought a Craftsman garden tractor (GT3000) with a mulching deck and found it to clog in dry grass, forget trying to cut wet grass. In a hour of mowing I would have to stop and clear out the deck 4-6 times. The next year I obtained another GT3000 as a backup machine. The only difference was that it came with a non-mulching deck. I have used this deck on both GT3000’s since and have not had to clear out the deck in 18 years.
I’ve been trying to ask for advice on forums and such, but the problem I have is that most people have their biases (don’t we all) and that affects how they think I should act. Almost everywhere I ask, people suggest that I consider a stand on Bradley instead of a walk behind Bradley, even though it is as much as $830 more even after a sulky and it weighs probably 500 pounds more. They also suggest that I get a trailer to occasionally haul my mower and then consider a ZTR, even though I’ve explained all the reasons and expenses it would take for a “never” trailer owner/operator to start using a trailer. I’m trying to determine if it makes sense, even though you’re the only person I’ve found who has done this, to choose a 48" commercial-quality walk behind for no more than $3,700 that is hydraulic; with 10/7 gauge steel frame/deck (just like the competitors) with the only differences being that they use a commercial-grade Briggs and Stratton instead of a higher-level Vanguard or Kawasaki, etc; and they have the deck/frame imported from China before adding on equal components like pulleys, belts, transmission, etc. Or, as the only other alternative I’m considering, a second level lawn tractor (called a garden tractor) for as little as $3,400 after taxes and delivery. I have eliminated the big box store lawn tractors due to less than 50% reviews, mostly attributed to junky transmissions. The cheapest 48" lawn tractor with a decent transmission is a Husqvarna TS series; it has the Tough Torque K66; the lowest-priced model being a TS348 for list price of $3,000 + taxes and maybe shipping, because it’d have to be ordered, as no one keeps it in stock. Most people can’t understand walking 1.3 acres and so they advise that I consider a stand on; but no one has suggested that I choose the garden tractor instead, and no one has brought up any issues except for the fixed deck. Evidently, many pros hate the fixed deck, and I also see that you’ve struggled with it a little as well, but from their perspective, it’s a little different, because they’re having to change deck heights often to suit their customers, whereas I mostly just have to get it right for what I want on a single lawn. Thanks for all your posts. This gives me much to consider.
Yes, I’m aware the guys who mow for a living oftentimes do not care for a fixed deck. But like you, I’m mowing only my own lawn.
Changing Bradley blade height settings is not easy. Well, OK, it’s fairly easy if you are very strong and have a couple of breaker bars. I use a 3/4" long-handle socket on one side and a 1/2" socket with breaker bar on the other. It takes all I have to break (i.e., to unscrew) those nuts. I was stronger when I was younger. It would have been easier back then. Also, just elevating that heavy deck to where it is safe to work on is a job in itself. Those bolts are quite long and you need open space beneath them in order to be able to extract them.
But as you already realize, need for blade height setting changes is rare to zero once you find the setting that works for you, for your lawn. And my lawn does not change, so the setting does not need to change once you have arrived at the right one. Also, there is some cutting adjustment possible through change to the front caster spacers. And those are easy to change, though you still must elevate the deck a bit first.
I have always had good fortune with the Briggs engines. The last one I bought before this Bradley, which was on a 22" Poulan Pro walk behind, is still running after at least thirteen years . . . perhaps longer I really cannot remember before 2006. Of course all engines, including Briggs, are of poorer quality today than once was the case. And they are more expensive. I have been wanting to replace my 22" for more than a year to use as a trim mower. But the newer mowers have smaller engines, some made in China. I’m at the point of considering purchase of a NOS engine identical to that 2006 engine and just rebuilding the old mower around that NOS engine. That might be preferable to spending over $500 to replace a mower which used to cost closer to $250. You can still buy the NOS engines for circa $200 and they are USA made. I should have bought two mowers back in 2006 and just set one aside and saved it. Little did I realize back then where things were headed.
Anyway, so far so good with the Bradley Briggs engine, which I believe IS USA made. Only problem I’ve had is a small flexible tube connecting one valve cover with the fuel pump. It is forward and too prominent and, prior to my realizing the jeopardy, it struck obstacles as I was mowing and became a little torn. When that little tube does not seal properly the mower will not start or run. It took me a while to dope that one out. Only clue I had at first was “no fuel”. But why? Well, I finally figured it out. Funny how such a small thing can mess everything up. They should have a guard around that tiny little hose. And of course the engine runs just fine when that small hose is intact.
At the get go my worst problem with the Bradley was leaving of uncut grass where the blades meet. This was largely settings, as things turned out. Also, careful examination of the Bradley blades shows the cutting edges do not go quite all the way to the end of each blade. The blades themselves are brutes . . very, very thick steel and not especially vulnerable to things which might damage lesser blades. But I’m still considering different blades for my Bradley and might, or might not, buy a set as things evolve and I learn more.
Again thanks for more of your insights and experiences. I should point out that I am sort of a semi pro. I work at a national fish hatchery and we have probably 50 acres to cut; some small fields, but a couple of large fields; the largest of which is probably nine acres; around a creek; around a pond; around fences; about six slopes; around a couple of condemned houses; you name it, we cut it; so I’m familiar with the high dollar machines. We have a couple of 72" ZTR’s; high end. Sixteen mph speed Hustler Super Z HDs and a 60" high end lawn tractor; JD full-time four wheel drive that we use on our slopes. We also have a 2005 front mower; a golf-course-style mower that’s 72" deck; it’s a JD 1420. As we replace the front mowers (only one left), we’re going with ZTRs, because the front mowers no longer come gas powered. This is why we are able to go to the very high end on ZTRs, because the most expensive ZTRs cost less than it would to replace them with a diesel-powered front mower; and we have gasoline on station; no diesel on station, so it makes a lot more sense to go with commercial gas equipment. So it’s not like I’m someone that doesn’t understand the benefits to riding on super-fast, productive mower and how quick a ZTR can be compared to other choices. In fact, one reason I want a walk behind is so that I don’t go home and have to ride some more after spending a couple of days of about 6 hrs each on a ZTR and my back hurting from all the sitting; and then the next day at work, I might spend 6 1/2 hours driving a distribution truck hauling trout. That’s a three day stretch of alot of sitting. The last thing I want after that is to go home and see the yard needs mowing and have to hop on a ZTR or a lawn tractor for another 45 minutes.
My job also can be physical at times with a lot of walking and lifting and just general blue-collar work dealing with animal care, but I have less back trouble and soreness from the physical stuff than I do the sitting work, and I think a couple hours walking would do me good either way.
Anyway; thanks again and great discussion.
I own 18 acres and spend 2 hours cutting about 2 acres with a Craftsman GT3000 garden tractor with a 50" deck and Kohler engine. I have two of these GT3000’s for the last 18 years, one with a manual transmission the other with a hydro trans. The only parts I have had to replace are belts, one blade spindle and 2 bolts that broke on a deck wheel that I keep catching on tight turns usually on cement blocks holding up firewood. I also had the internal starter solenoid on two starters fail. I finally bypassed the solenoid with a separate car starter solenoid. Whenever I look for parts it also lists the parts for a Husqvarna.
My neighbor cuts a similar size area and has bought a high end Zero turn mower. Whenever we both cut our lawns at the same time. I feel like I am riding a turtle compared to his rabbit mower. At one time a few years ago I started checking Craigslist for a ZTM like his. All I found were two decks for my GT3000 that I now have as spares. I remember one of the decks cost $30. Compared to $5000+ he spent on his zero turn. He has also told me of problems he has had with his ZTM. A few problems he had repaired under warranty and has since repaired it himself. While I still keep riding my “turtle” GT3000 relatively trouble free.
Well, I took the plunge on the sulky. They came back into stock at WalMart and I decided to cease messing around. Contacted Bradley and they cannot match Wally’s price . . . even though it is THEIR sulky!
Crazy. Also priced at Amazon but significantly more expensive there. I do not know how WalMart is doing this. But never look a gift horse in the mouth. Here is the sulky I bought. Reviews are good:
Walmart often sells models/submodels made specifically and exclusively for Walmart. I have no clue if that’s the case here (and you wont get any official answers as to the differences, if they even acknowledge a difference), but there’s a chance you arent getting the exact same one from Walmart that you’d get direct from Bradley, it’s manufactured “cheaper” which may or may not affect it’s performance and durability.
Or you’re just seeing how Walmart has lower margin expectations than other retailers. It’s also rather funny that Bradley is currently selling a refurbished one on Ebay for $20 more than what they’re selling new ones for on their own website.
I wonder how many of those clicks were to find out what a sulky is?
Of course thinking on stuff like this sometimes can “evolve”.
Now with the sulky on way in I got to wondering about the Bradley 48" stand-ons. A stand on, after all, is not so much different than my mower trailed by a sulky. Bradley offers two 48" stand ons, one has the better Vanguard engine. It is quite expensive and obviously is intended for commercial, professional, mowers.
But they have a new 48" stand-on with the same Briggs 25hp Commercial Turf engine I have on my walk-behind. I think that engine is more than adequate for non-commercial home use. And that new, less expensive, stand-on is on sale now for four grand. Here is a link:
Q: So shin, are you wishing now you had a stand-on instead of your walk-behind and sulky?
Naaa, I’m still good. I wish I had the larger rear tires on that stand-on though. People really seem to like the stand-on mowers. I think they are OK, but it is better to walk. One thing absolutely for certain, either walking or standing surely does beat sitting all silly.
That is a very good point you raise, glitch99, and it is something I had failed to consider!
However, I have had a number of exchanges with the people at Bradley over this last year. I like and trust them. So I contacted them on this to get a handle on what is going on. Here it is:
The Bradley sulky from WalMart is exactly identical to the same model being shipped by the factory. In fact, my sulky WILL be drop shipped to me directly from Bradley’s Illinois factory (I expect delivery this coming Monday).
OK, so why is WalMart less expensive? The factory pricing is set so as to protect the Bradley dealer network. And of course their local dealers charge a bit more. In addition, WalMart’s massive shipping volume entitles them to lower shipping rates than the ones available to Bradley. And I guess, even though the sulky is coming from Illinois, it is nevertheless being shipped under the WalMart shipping contract since WalMart sold it.
All in all the Bradley guy told me they are happy to sell through WalMart. And as he put it, “we do not set WalMart’s prices”. So bottom line, I’m happy, Bradley is happy, and everybody wins!
Yeah, looking at the details, the price isn’t that much different to indicate a lower quality item. Likely just different margin requirements; the factory gets credited the wholesale price for everything (including what’s sent to their own stores), and their retail operation marks it up more than Walmart.
You caught me. Still confused how shinobi cuts his grass with that contraption.
So, four years in, and is everything peaches and cream?
The mower has significant limitations. It nevertheless has been useful to me on a great many occasions.
It is useless when the grass is a bit overgrown. It would work well for fastidious types who mow frequently wanting their lawn always to appear pristine.
It is challenged when the grass is moist . . not wet. No mower has an easy time with wet grass. By moist I mean when there has been a great deal of rain and the grass itself, even though dry, has a very high moisture content.
The mower is very sturdy and the engine and controls are great. But the mowing deck is poorly designed in that it struggles too much to eject the clipped grass.
I rebuilt the deck (it had given up the ghost) on my 30+ year old Cub Cadet riding mower. When the grass becomes too challenging for the Bradley I give it a once over with the Cub. The old Cub’s deck is FAR better designed than the one on the Bradley. It can mow through almost anything, including foot high grass!
That’s all I need to hear. Thank you very much.
OK. Understood. But I can offer a few additional comments:
This mower, it’s important to understand, is intended for commercial operators . . . for pros in other words. I’m not in the business. I’m using the mower to mow my home lawn. As such I am somewhat at cross purposes with the mower’s design.
Commercial mowing pros are going for appearance. They are paid to mow frequently so the lawns they maintain always have that “pristine” visual aspect. The Bradley is entirely capable of delivering that sort of outcome.
On the other hand, a homeowner schlub like me has a different goal. I want to mow as infrequently as possible, with the lawn just barely avoiding “jungle” status in between mowings. Catering to persons such as myself clearly was not an objective of the Bradley design team. Were I mowing my lawn as often as a paid pro would mow it, the Bradley would do a fine job even beneath “moist grass” conditions.
In my never humble opinion, the Bradley was designed by mechanical engineers who were nevertheless light on their fluid mechanics classes. It’s built and powered like a tank and the mechanisms are first class. But the sort of “wind tunnel” which must be created within (i.e., beneath) the deck in order efficiently to eject clippings is not well implemented.
In fairness, deck design is only part of that aspect. It’s possible different, better, blades also would help to do the trick. And I so far have used only the factory blades. I’m aware third party sellers today have available different blade options for the Bradley. But I’ve not tried any of those.
Thanks, shin. Your further explanation confirms my decision.
I was looking for a possible replacement for my father, who is only a few years younger than you. As he’s gotten older, he hasn’t cut back much on his yard and garden work. Thus, he is not only in the normal state of a farmer of never finishing, but he continues to fall further behind. I am probably going to get a small tractor with a belly mower that he can run at 10+ mph. He doesn’t cut until he gets embarrassed by the height, and he doesn’t really care how it looks as long as it’s cut.
He’s in LA, so the grass is moist for 9+ months of the year, and that alone shoots down the Bradley. Your reasoning that their target market is comfortable with the Bradley’s capabilities makes sense, and why the individual homeowner might have a different opinion … except for the turf nuts.