A lawnmower that works on a go forward basis

10 Nov
The Honda self-propelled mower cuts a fine figure, even as it mulches the thickest of lawns.  (Geoff Meeker photos)

The Honda self-propelled mower cuts a fine figure, even as it mulches the thickest of lawns. (Geoff Meeker photos)

November 10, 2014 – After 10 years of reliable service my old Briggs & Stratton lawnmower finally bit the biscuit, sputtering and croaking right before my eyes. Suddenly, I was in the market for a new machine – and curious about how the technology has evolved over the last decade.

People had been telling me for some time that I needed a motor-propelled mower, so this moved to the top of my checklist.

Then a friend posted on Facebook that he was selling a new Honda HRR216 mower – purchased in May of this year for $650 – for substantially less than the showroom price. It had the motor-drive feature I was looking for and more, plus it’s a Honda… so I purchased it on the spot.

I obtained the mower in the fall so I haven’t used it extensively, but my first impressions are largely good.

I read the owner’s manual front to back before using the machine – you don’t want to mess around with lawn mowers, as they can do major damage and even kill you if used improperly.

The Honda started on the first pull. The motor drive is controlled by a thumb-manipulated lever that takes a little getting used to, because if you accelerate too quickly you almost have to run to catch up.

That said, it’s a pleasure to follow this baby around the yard while it does all the heavy lifting.

I prefer mulching the grass when I can because it saves time and deposits nutrients back into the soil. And I was intrigued by the “Micro-Cut” twin blade system, which features a smaller, apparently sharper blade mounted directly above the cutting blade, to shred the grass even more as it flies upward.

On my first use, the lawn had not been mowed in two weeks so it was quite dense in places. On my old machine I would have been forced to use the bagger, but the mulch setting on the Honda breezed through everything, including a light layer of leaves in the corner of the yard. At no time did the mower protest. Heck, I think you could mulch a field of ripe cabbage with this baby. (That’s a joke. Do not attempt this at home.)

One feature I like is the gas control switch, which allows you to drain fuel from the motor for long-term storage without having to wastefully suck the whole tank dry.

There are some downsides to the machine, most of them minor.

The mower weighs a hefty 90 lbs., which makes the motor propulsion a necessity – especially going up an embankment – and can be challenging on sharper inclines, such as the 40-degree downward slope that connects my property to the lot next door. I had to give the machine a running start boosted by a strong push to get it up the hill, and strong back and shoulders were needed to ease it back down. If you have a lot of steep hills on your property, a machine this heavy probably isn’t for you.

It’s also a bit of pain having to disengage the motor drive to more carefully approach trees, flowers, downspouts and other garden obstacles. Though it works exceptionally well, this mower is best suited to wide open, fairly level lawns with minimal obstructions.

The 5.5 horsepower motor and brand new blade makes for excellent cutting power that gives no quarter to any uneven ground you encounter. Little bumps in the yard are leveled to brown dirt instantly – not good for the lawn – so you need to be wary of such inconsistencies (especially if that bump is a rock).

Cause for concern: the drive belt that connects blade pulley to motor is completely exposed to flying debris inside the mower deck.

Cause for concern: the drive belt that connects blade pulley to motor is completely exposed to flying debris inside the mower deck.

I discovered my biggest concern with the mower when I flipped it up to check the undercarriage. The drive belt that connects the blade to the motor is clearly visible through a gap about eight inches wide, exposing it and the pulley to whatever is flying around inside the deck. Is this wise? We all know how grass pulp can accumulate, not to mention the flying twigs, rocks and other flotsam that might go flying up there.

I can only assume that Honda knows what it is doing; that they have studied the aerodynamics of spinning blades and flying debris in a closed compartment and can promise that nothing could possibly go wrong with this design.

To borrow a pompous political cliché, I will monitor the mower closely on a go forward basis.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: