July 1 2001 12:00 AM

Since the stand-on mower is a relative newcomer to the lawn care marketplace, let?s talk to some people who have logged time on the back of a stand-on mower. After all, the proof is in the mowing.

Terry Farmer, general manager, Sebert Landscaping, Bartlett, Illinois, says, ?Our company has invested in them and bought 60 stand-on mowers that are working every day. Our guys beg for them because they get the job done fast, and they are easy to handle once they learn.?
According to Farmer, the stand-on mower is the best all-around mower on the market, but notes it really depends on the cutting area. He says the stand-on mower works best on properties that run from a half to three acres, which is typically what most properties are in the Chicago suburbs where Sebert Landscaping is located.

Getting comfortable with the stand-on mower, Farmer notes, is really no big deal. He says he?s overheard workers say, ?Gosh, that mower makes it feel like cutting the lawn is fun.?

Another advantage of the stand-on mower is that it can easily be converted to a catcher mower for the same price as a walk-behind, as the attachment has the same technology. Farmer says the grass catchers are interchangeable. If you compare costs, the catcher for the stand-on mower is only about $100, compared to $1,200 for a typical ride-on mower catcher attachment.

When it comes down to which mower cuts the lawn better, Farmer says it?s typically thought that the walk-behind gives the best cut and the ride-on gives the worst cut. ?I think the stand-on gives the best cut for what it is,? commented Farmer.

Regarding the future of the stand-on mower, Farmer feels it is very promising because of its low cost and versatility. ?I think the walk-behinds are beginning to fade out. The stand-ons should become the workhorse of the lawn care industry.?

If one first hand experience is good, two is better. Covering the central and western territory for U.S. Lawns, Fred Haskett, senior facilitator, St. Louis, Missouri, says the stand-on mower is catching on gradually just because it is so different.

?I was involved with a demonstration session with the Great Dane stand-on mower about a year and a half ago,? says Haskett. ?I felt there was a reduction in discomfort in the knees and lower back when operating the stand-on units versus the pull-behind standing units.?

For Haskett, the advantages of using a stand-on mower are maneuverability, operator comfort, zero-turning radius, and the smaller size that makes these mowers ideal for mowing tighter configurations.

Haskett noted he?d heard concerns about clearance underneath trees, as the stand-on mower operator had a higher silhouette than the sitting down ride-on operator. ?Some of the guys I heard felt a little unsteady on slopes,? says Haskett. ?I felt it was more the fact that they were standing that made the guys feel a little less secure. I have always found that people are able to become confident and efficient with new machines after about two to four weeks of operation.?

Are stand-on mowers faster at getting the job done? Haskett mentioned that the verdict is not yet in on the question of speed. ?The maneuverability could give stand-ons the advantage. On wide-open areas, the stand-on would be about even with ride-on and walk behind mowers,? says Haskett. ?In very tight areas with obstacles, the stand-on might prove to have a slight advantage.?

?I?ve encouraged our franchise people to go for a demonstration and see what they feel about the stand-on mower,? says Haskett. ?I think as people try the stand-on and become more familiar with it, we will see more and more of them out in the field.?

William Wright, president of Wright Manufacturing, Frederick, Maryland, whose company makes the Wright Stander, said he filed an application to patent the stand-on mower in 1994. In April of 1996, the first patent was issued. ?We make a small lawn mower that does a big job,? says Wright. ?The stand-on mower can be made short and stubby with a small footprint. It is the smallest lawn mower in the world when you consider the width that it will cut.?

Wright Manufacturing offers five Stander mowers, with cutting decks from 36" to 61" wide. According to Wright, the Stander?s short length from front to back is a good thing. Smaller mowers have more built-in maneuverability. Walk-behind mowers need handlebars to steer with that protrude from behind the machine. Ride-on mowers have an engine that sticks out the back of the machine. However, the stand-on mower is not burdened with bars or seats.

Lawns are generally hilly, which means when the terrain is uneven and uphill, regular mowers may become unsteady, tipping sideways while pointed across the hill. ?The stand-on mower has a lower center of gravity because the operator is plugged into the machine at his feet instead of his seat,? says Wright. ?Your feet are only six inches off the ground, whereas seats are at least 30 inches off the ground.? He added, ?The effect is that the mass of the operator is focused very low on a stand-on machine, but the effect of the mass of the operator that is seated makes the machine tend to be top-heavy.?

Like the built-in dynamics of a race car, where the engine is dropped into the middle of the car for more agility and quicker turns, the stand-on mower too has the mass of the engine in the middle of the machine, says Wright, contrary to other mowers where the large part of the mass is located at the ends of the machine. ?A mower has poles, meaning the end of the lawn mower has low momentum or low polar moments,? says Wright. ?Having a low polar moment allows the mower to make turns more quickly and straighten out more quickly.?

Quick turn recovery is important for any lawn mower. The lower polar moment makes the stand-on mower more agile on turns. Wright states his product line is growing because landscape contractors like the stand-on since they can put more on their trailers, due to the small footprint.
According to feedback Wright received from users, the stand-on mower does the job of cutting lawns about 25 to 30 percent more quickly, in comparison to the industrial walk-behinds. The stand-on mower is 10 to 15 percent faster than traditional ride-on mowers cutting hills and lawns with a fair amount of obstacles. ?We come into play better in places that require more maneuvering,? says Wright.

In addition to the Wright Stander, the company came out last year with another mower called the Wright Sentar; sentar being the Spanish verb ?to sit.? This mower combines the best properties of the stand-on mower in a sit-down version.

Rick Cuddihe, senior vice president, Great Dane Power Equipment, Jeffersonville, Indiana, says their national and international dealerships sell the Great Dane brand of the stand-on mower.

Cuddihe says the idea behind the stand-on mower is to increase productivity. The most important items that contractors want out of power equipment is to reduce labor costs and increase productivity.

?We believe our SuperSurfer stand-on machine is the most productive lawn mower available today,? said Cuddihe. ?It features simplistic design, ease of operation, increased productivity, maneuverability, and good hillside performance.?

According to Cuddihe, the benefit of using a stand-on mower is that the operator is closer to his work, allowing him to work better. ?Our mower is designed to give a good quality cut, as it has the latest cutting technology designed into the cutter deck.?

Calling the stand-on mower a very operator-friendly piece of equipment, Cuddihe says that anyone that can operate a walk-behind or a ride-on mower can operate the SuperSurfer. It takes less than a day to learn to operate the mower.

?We started the Great Dane Company in 1996, and we believe that many of our customers are just now starting to notice the advantage of our product,? says Cuddihe. ?So the demand has grown. We are very excited about the future of the stand-on mowers; we feel it will continue to grow.?
Stuart Craig, vice president of business development for Lonmore Company, Means, Kentucky, says the company has developed a prototype stand-on mower, using a steering wheel that allows the machine to turn in a complete circle. Craig says, ?The front wheels are controlled by the steering wheel. When turning, the mower will pivot around the inside rear wheel. The load-bearing front end enables the use of attachments.? Lonmore is not presently on the market.

As every landscape contractor knows, the money question can be a high priority factor in mower selection. Both Wright and Cuddihe agree the stand-on mower is an exceptional value, and is competitively priced from $5,000 to $7,500. The stand-on mower has carved out the middle price range between walk-behind at the low end of the scale, and the ride-on mower at the high end.

Currently there are only two models of stand-on mowers on the market; they are the Wright Stander by Wright Manufacturing and the SuperSurfer by Great Dane. That may change, as new products are developed and enter the marketplace. One thing is certain ? stand-on mowers already have a loyal following.