Top tips to Make Mowing safer on steep slopes with a ride-on mower.

Some ride-on mowers are absolutely not suitable for mowing anything other than flat terrain. Be sure the mower you buy is specifically built to handle slopes. Some can handle up to about a 15° gradient, others such as the Razorback are specifically designed to mow slopes much steeper. But even with one of these mowers caution should be taken. The following will provide you with some tips to help make the job a little easier and safer.

#1 Dont Mow when Wet

Mowing flat wet grass isn’t ideal, and mowing a wet slope is an even worse idea. Very dry grass is also not so safe and can be slippery and dangerous to mow but for different reasons. When the ground is very hard and dry, it does not provide the same grip that normal ground does ie. the tread slightly indents the ground therefore, giving more traction grip. Once you start to slip, you kick-start a chain reaction of physics principles and things can change, fast – it’s best to minimise the risk of slipping in the first place.

#2 Adjust the mower deck

Shift your mower cutting deck to a very high level to avoid scalping when mowing over undulations.

#3 Direction

For ride-on mowers, go up and down (NOT side to side). This gives maximum traction to the drive wheels and lessens the risk of rolling. It also avoids the ‘crabbing’ that tends to happen when mowing crossways on any slope, where the heavy end of the machine keeps trying to slide downhill making slope mowing difficult.

#4 Check before you mow

The manufacturer will know exactly what their product is capable of so read the manual and follow their recommendation before getting started.

#5 Follow manufacturer’s directions

Do a pre-mowing inspection to check for and remove any big debris or obstacles (holes, ruts, bumps, rocks, sticks/branches, etc) that could get in the way. This is particularly important if the grass is long.

#6 Roll over Protection

Many mowers are issued standard with a ROPS. If your mower has a ROPS that is fully up (e.g. not folded down), then you must wear the seatbelt that is provided. If you don’t have a ROPS, it is not recommended to wear a seatbelt, as this makes exiting the machine difficult should you get into trouble.

#7 Go slow

Choose a low or even the lowest gear and keep the RPMs up.

#8 Tractor style ride-ons

These type of ride-on mowers are notoriously unstable on slopes for two reasons:

  1. They have a pivoting front axle, which on slope allows the machine to automatically tilt over a bit and then that in turn causes a loss of traction on one of the rear wheels
  2. Due to the fact that the engine weight is in front, when going down a slope the centre of gravity changes. You then lose the ability to brake and slow down because almost all tractor style ride-on mowers have only rear brakes.

#9 Ride on slope and brush mowers

Slope and brush mowers have a very low centre of gravity and are often four-wheel drive for added traction. They ‘hug’ the ground and some can even mow slopes of up to 30°. Often called ride-on brushcutters, their decks are designed to efficiently process long grass, high weeds and even small trees, with mulching or rear discharge output. They’ll leave a fairly reasonable finish but are not as suitable for flat, wide areas. Their lug grip tyres may rip up the turf (however, turf tyres are often available).

TIP: Models with belt drive deck and chain assist drive are much less safe than shaft driven models. (The Razorback has No Deck Belts

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#10 Safety Do's

  1. When possible, always start, stop and turn on the flat.
  2. Use extra care with grass catchers or other attachments as they affect the mower’s stability.
  3. Have an escape route planned if the brakes fail or you lose control of the steering.
  4. If you feel the front wheels lifting – STOP, turn around slowly and go back down.

#11 Safety Dont's

  1. Do not shift to neutral and coast downhill.
  2. Never use a rear-mounted bag on a slope as it gets too heavy and is a tipping hazard.
  3. Never try to stabilise the mower by putting your foot on the ground.

#12 If in doubt, dont

In some cases, the terrain may be too steep for anything. Perhaps fence it and get some sheep or goats, or landscape it to be a wilderness area or shrubbery. How steep is too steep? If your slope gains 30cm of height every 90cm of distance it’s too steep for your average ride on mower and you need a specialist mower.

Be proactive. Safety when mowing on slopes is your responsibility.

Arrange your onsite demo today! Or simply call us on 1800 088 567 and ask to speak to a Razorback Product Specialist!

Remember the arduous back aching sweat breaking hours spent holding the awkward and dangerous brush cutter? Not only does this test your patience and strength, it poses as a serious time waster and safety risk to you.

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