Getting Ahead

Three-wheel riders made up much of the commercial mowing landscape before zero-turn radius mowers were ever invented. And today, even with the rise in demand for zero-turn riding mowers, three-wheel machines with out-front mowers have their niche in the marketplace.

Their simple design with a large out-front mower deck and aircraft- or bicycle-style steering handle offers many benefits. Easy to use, easy to maintain and ideal for accounts with lots of trimming, the three-wheel rider has a place in your equipment arsenal.


What makes the three-wheel rider different from other mowers on the market is that it's very easy to use. There is a quicker learning curve for new operators, maximizing their potential sooner because the operation does not take as much coordination and skill necessary for zero-turn machines.

“The learning curve to become proficient with it is minimal,” says Roy Dust, product specialist for Ferris Industries. “Most people grow up riding a bike so when they grab the steering handles, it feels very natural. It's easy for them to catch on,” he says. “In addition, our ProCut 20 has a heavy-duty hydrostatic transmission where forward, reverse and stop are controlled by a single pedal.”

“I've used three-wheel riders since I started my business 18 years ago,” says Tom Miano, owner of Miano's Landscaping and Mowing in Oswego, N.Y. “I always have two or three in my stable. They are very easy to teach someone to use. The learning curve is much faster than it is with a twin-stick zero-turn machine.”

“I use a ProCut 20 for pretty much everything I do,” says Tim Ezzo, owner of T.K. Ezzo & Sons in Syracuse, N.Y. “Mid-mounts are nice machines too, but I find the three-wheel rider much easier to handle.”


“One of the biggest misconceptions people have about the out-front mower is that they are only good in big, open areas,” Dust says. “That couldn't be further from the truth. The more trimming required on a property, the more productive they are,” he says.

The out-front deck design offers the operator maximum visibility. Because the operator sits above the rear wheel, he or she has a great vantage point for trimming in tight spaces. The operator swings away from obstacles while the deck stays close to him, eliminating a lot of hand trimming time and preventing the operator from fending off low branches.

For Gary Gibbs of Gibbs Landscaping, Salina, N.Y., this includes most of his properties. “About 80 percent of the properties I maintain have trees and shrubs,” says Gibbs. “The three-wheel rider boosts my productivity because it allows me to save time trimming.”

Todd Gessini, owner of TG Lawn & Landscape in East Syracuse, N.Y., agrees. “With my ProCut 20, I can get in, out, under and around obstacles quickly and easily,” he says. “A lot of my accounts have pine trees, bushes and fences and the trimming ability of my three-wheeler saves me time because I don't need to weed whack.”


Importantly, the three-wheel out-front rider offers a great cut. The out-front deck cuts the grass before it's flattened by the drive tires and the drive system makes it very difficult to tear up the turf.

“While mid-mount zero-turn units need to be operated not to tear turf, the transaxle drive system on this unit makes damaging the turf difficult,” says Dust. “When making a turn, the transaxle drive system ‘senses’ the turn and distributes power to the wheels when and where it's needed.”

“The three-wheel unit makes it easy to keep a straight line and the deck adjustment makes it easy to change cutting heights,” Ezzo says. “The tilt-up deck also means you can keep the cutting deck in prime condition for mowing. And that means a better quality of cut.”


Three-wheel riders provide excellent traction and stability thanks to their low stance and low center of gravity. And the Ferris ProCut 20 features a patented electric deck lift that allows the operator to conveniently raise the mower deck with the flip of a switch for momentary traction assistance.

“If you are working in wet ground and think you might get stuck, you can shift the unit's weight by lifting the mower deck slightly to gain more traction,” says Miano. “It helps you get out of any messes you might get into.”

“It's also great when you are working in an area with lots of curbs,” he adds. “The ProCut will walk right up them with the deck tilted.”


Maintaining an out-front rider is quick and easy due to its simple design. Access to the spindles and belts is simply a matter of removing the deck cover. Cleaning and servicing the blades can be just a matter of flipping a switch to raise the deck.

“Keeping the mower deck clean and the blades sharp is simple,” Gessini says. “You don't have to lay down, you don't have to jack the deck up, you just flip the deck up. I pull the blades off every morning, sharpen them, pop them back on and away I go,” he says.

“A big reason I'm such a fan of three-wheelers is their simple maintenance,” Miano comments. “You have easy access for changing the oil and the filter.”


The simple design of the three-wheel rider also enhances the unit's reliability. Reliable engines, a 10-gauge lap welded, reinforced steel mower deck, a heavy-duty hydrostatic transmission and its heavy-duty roller changing steering are designed for durability.

“I run two three-wheel units,” Gessini says. “One has a 52-inch deck and one has a 61-inch deck and I've had great luck with them. And I have a great dealer backing me up. If I do need service or maintenance, he picks my unit up and has it ready the next morning.”


If you are looking for a riding mower that's easy to operate, has high visibility, offers a great cut and has a simple design, a three-wheel rider might be just what you are looking for. Several commercial mowing manufacturers offer three-wheel units in their lines.

Troy Blewett is the corporate communications manager for Simplicity Manufacturing (Port Washington, Wisc.).


The front-cut design is even making its way into the residential market. Products like the Simplicity Lancer with a 44-inch out-front mower deck offer many of the same benefits as their commercial counterparts.

A four-wheel unit with rear steering, the Lancer's out-front mower deck allows the operator to easily trim around trees, rocks, fences and other obstacles. A 16-inch turning radius adds to its superior maneuverability.

The out-front mower deck flips up 90 degrees for easy access and cleaning. And an easy-to-use weight transfer lever raises the mower deck off the ground for improved traction and transport over driveways and curbs.

A steering wheel, automatic transmission with foot-controlled acceleration, and a well-designed operator cockpit add to its ease of operation.

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