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Old 04-18-09, 10:33 AM   #1
jagged
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Lawn mowing for bike commuters (only slightly OT)

Why did I spend so long loving bike commuting but hating pushing a gas (later, electric) lawn mower on weekends? The solution was there all along: the push-reel mower, the "old-fashioned" human-powered lawn mower that, like the bike, is in many ways superior to its engine-powered cousin.

Now that I no longer have to spend time trying to start a gas engine or lay extension cord, I mow my lawns much, much faster. The physical effort required to push the mower is actually less than for my old, heavy electric mower, because the reel mower is so light.

I'm realizing that most of the arguments in favor of bike commuting apply here:

Have a short commute/small lawn? Don't like buying gas (or kilowatts)? Don't want a big heavy thing taking up space in your garage? Interested in paying half as much for a human-powered vehicle? Here you go: http://www.target.com/inch-Scotts-Cl.../dp/B00004RA3E
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Old 04-18-09, 10:49 AM   #2
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I had one for a while. It's wasn't a clean cut.
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Old 04-18-09, 10:57 AM   #3
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When I lived in Vermont I used an old flea market reel mower.
People would drive by and give my thumbs up, too
I did it mostly because of noise, though. There were churches and
neighbors close by that always had stuff going on, and it seemed anti-social
to blare a gas mower when it wasnt necessary
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Old 04-18-09, 02:25 PM   #4
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I want to get one of these when my electric mower gives out. They look fun, and cheaper and greener!
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Old 04-18-09, 02:42 PM   #5
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The one I used to have years ago didn't cut very well. Maybe the newer ones are better.
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Old 04-18-09, 04:21 PM   #6
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My reel mower cuts OK if I keep the blades sharp and adjusted. I prefer to mow early in the morning when it's just light enough to see. My neighbors wouldn't be too happy if I used a power mower.
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Old 04-18-09, 05:37 PM   #7
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My parents bought one and found out that there was no economical way to get its blades sharpened.

It was usable for about 5 years on a fairly normal sized front&back lawn. Recycling/replacing the human powered mower every 5 years isn't too bad if you compare it to the motorized alternatives. Overall it was a great mower up until the blade dulled toward the end of its lifespan.

It's possible the new mower they bought has blades that can be sharpened without mailing the mower across the country.
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Old 04-18-09, 05:50 PM   #8
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How high can the manual reel mowers be adjusted to cut? It's healthier for your lawn to keep the grass tall. My gas mower is set to 4-5 inches. I do use the bike to get the gas can refilled though.

I remember seeing pictures of a pedal powered reel mower someone made by attaching a bike to one. That's what I thought this thread was going to be about.
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Old 04-18-09, 06:33 PM   #9
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Reel is real!


OK, someone had to....

And I always use a reel mower. Quiet, easy to get around the garden, leaves a nice finish. The newer ones are not as good as the classic '60s cast iron model I have in the UK, but then I love old stuff.

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Old 04-18-09, 06:42 PM   #10
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Lawns suck!
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Old 04-18-09, 07:18 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by cerewa View Post
My parents bought one and found out that there was no economical way to get its blades sharpened.

It was usable for about 5 years on a fairly normal sized front&back lawn. Recycling/replacing the human powered mower every 5 years isn't too bad if you compare it to the motorized alternatives. Overall it was a great mower up until the blade dulled toward the end of its lifespan.

It's possible the new mower they bought has blades that can be sharpened without mailing the mower across the country.

Actually you can buy a sharpening kit that has a grinding compound and a handle that spins the blades in reverse, effectively putting a very sharp edge on the blades after about 5 minutes. I bought a kit for about $15 four years ago and sharpen the blades a couple times a year. I still have a lot of the compound left too. I'm sure if you google it, the kit's still easy to find. After sharpening, my reel mower cuts very nicely.
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Old 04-18-09, 08:00 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Berg417448 View Post
The one I used to have years ago didn't cut very well. Maybe the newer ones are better.
When I was 16 I worked for a landscaper in the summer. We had gas powered reel mowers but we did use a push every now and then for super small lawns. What I learned about them is you need to keep the blades super sharp and you can't cheap out. You need to lay some major green down to cut the green. A reel mower from Target, Walmart, etc isn't going to cut it (pun intended). Best bet is to go to a small engine repair shop or some local lawn mower shop. Someone there will know something about it since many commercial landscapers still use them.

You can probably find a forum on them somewhere. You can about guarantee there are some people out there who live, breath, and eat old reel mowers.
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Old 04-18-09, 10:20 PM   #13
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I used one as a teenager on a fairly small yard. It is a good workout and it was always easier to keep the grass shorter. After a year or two, the blade was dulled and dinged (stupid rocks ) since we were in a relatively new development at the time.

There was a spot in the backyard where the water drained when it rained, so the grass was always lusher there and a pain in the but with that. We switched to a gas mower the third year, and ran it to the ground. Literally.....I blew it up with STP injector cleaner (which was labeled as 'jet fuel') 8 years on one mower, I think we got our money's worth out of it.

When all the neighbor's moved in they all used electric mowers, until they cut the power cords. Then I made 10 bucks a lawn per week or two per house!
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Old 04-18-09, 10:27 PM   #14
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You can about guarantee there are some people out there who live, breath, and eat old reel mowers.
I know there are typewriter people out there...

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Old 04-18-09, 10:29 PM   #15
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actually the grass varieties available today have tougher stems and leaves and are designed for power mowers. If you really want to use a push reel mower, in addition to keeping it sharp, you need to plant the correct varieties of grass.

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Old 04-18-09, 11:54 PM   #16
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Wow looks like there are lots to choose from.
http://www.peoplepoweredmachines.com...ll_compare.htm
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Old 04-19-09, 03:06 AM   #17
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I know there are typewriter people out there...

Crap. That reminds me from 2004 when it was Kerry vs Bush for the Presidential Election. Then I think Dan Rather did that report where he had a report stating Bush was a bad person or whatever. Then suddenly all these typewriter experts came out and pointed out that typewriters of that time did not have superscript(?) or basically if you wrote 21st it didn't automatically get smaller except for a handful of typewriters that would be the equivilent of thousands of dollars now.

On a motorcycle forum there is a guy who is an expert on everything shaving related. It was freaking amazing what he knew about old razors.

People are strange but that makes life fun.
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Old 04-19-09, 06:29 AM   #18
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I remember seeing pictures of a pedal powered reel mower someone made by attaching a bike to one. That's what I thought this thread was going to be about.
Remember and ye shall receive.
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Old 04-19-09, 09:13 AM   #19
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I have a tiny lawn, 'bout 20' x 30'. Someone left a Sear Craftsman push mower in the alley. Works good, and it's easy to store. My garage is crowded with bikes waiting to be revived & other cool alley finds. The Craftsman hangs nicely on the wall. Sears tools & equipment used to be the best quality & value around.

And I still have my grandfather's typewriter that he bought used while in high school. 85 years later, it still works fine. No computer or printer bought today will be fully functional in 2094.
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Old 04-19-09, 09:25 AM   #20
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When we lived out on the farm, my father in law had a few dozen sheep.

It was a simple matter of fencing the house yard with some woven wire, and hanging a gate across the driveway.

Then, every week or ten days, herd 'em in there while we were gone to work.

Yard would be all freshly shorn, and fertilized, in a day. It's amazing how much grass two dozen sheep can eat in a day. It was "cut" really short, tooooooo!

Shoo 'em back out when we came home, and we were good to go......
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Old 04-19-09, 11:29 AM   #21
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geese will mow your lawn for free also.
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Old 04-19-09, 12:21 PM   #22
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I dont care about lawns. We were looking for an investment property
here in FL as we always do wherever we are, and the first Realtor we
worked with COULD NOT grasp our preferring natural terrain - sand, brown
scrub grass and all, over 'nice' sod/hi-maintain fake kondo lawnage.
I think 'mature' landscaping looks way better than sho-place.
A few pink flamigo's, colored wish globes, bathtub Mary ........
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Old 04-19-09, 09:20 PM   #23
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I keep telling my wife the ideal size of lawn is that which can be easily cut with a reel mower in a half hour. Everything outside of that can become meadow. I have yet to win this argument.
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Old 04-20-09, 08:40 AM   #24
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Nice link about sharpening and adjusting these types of mowers.
My dad still uses the one he got from his dad.

http://www.reelmowers.info/
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Old 04-20-09, 09:07 AM   #25
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I have a good sized lawn, about an acre, and have been using the push-style mower for a couple years. I would use a gas rotary once or twice early in the season and then push mow the rest of the year.

I have mixed feelings. The cut is poor and I often had to roll over an area several times, kind of go back-and-forth. What's worse is that last year I messed up my back (sacroiliac joint) with the darned thing. It's a long story, but I mowed with one hand for a few weeks and then ended up with a bad back for 6 months. Now, I am not sure I want to use it at all anymore.

What's cool is that I now have a contractor cutting it at $35 a pop. Since it used to take me 3 or more hours to mow, I doubt that I will ever return to doing it myself again. I rather ride....and not risk messing up my back.
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