If there is one thing you can say about Tools in Action is that our timing is impeccable. We reviewed the Long Blaklader work pants in the dead of summer, then we did the shorts for fall. Now we are doing the Toro lawnmower when we should really be thinking about snowblowers. Well actually right now might be a good time to get a new lawnmower. We still have a few weeks of cutting grass and then the leaves start falling, so we need to bag them. Also I am sure the stores will start having some great sales on the mowers to make room for the snowblowers.
Usually when I get a new tool, I get very excited about playing with them and reviewing them. I have to say this time was a little different. Not that I wasn’t excited about a new Toro, but my old Murray still worked great, except the deck was starting to rust away. The Tecumseh engine was the best. In twenty years I did two oil changes on it. One the first year and one when I thought it was broken. One year I couldn’t get the mower to start, so me being Mr. Einstein, took the whole engine apart, man was I proud of myself. Cleaned everything, looked at everything and finally put it back together, with no left over screws or parts, gave it a pull and it didn’t start. Finally had to take it in and pay $50 to have a professional look at it and tell me it had bad gas. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Its kind of like calling a TV repair man to come over and fix your TV only to have him tell you the TV wasn’t plugged in. I would like to say it was my blonde moment, but I don’t have any hair. So anyways, it was very hard for me to give up my Tecumseh engine as it has been good to me. Well maybe I can use it for a go-cart or something.
When we opened the box, everything was all ready put together, which was nice. All we had to do was unfold the handle, fill it with gas and oil and we were set to go. Oh wait a second, there was no oil included with the mower. To me this is a little cheap. You get a mower that is $640 and they can’t include a $5 bottle of oil. Oh well I will get over it. We took the Toro out of the box and noticed a small flat plastic disk at the bottom of the box. It did look like it broke off something, but couldn’t figure out from where. We looked all over and just figured it wasn’t that important. After returning from the store with our $5 oil, we put some oil in the mower and we were set to start mowing. When I say we, I mean I would mow and Dan would just watch until he got bored and starting annoying me. The mower started with one pull and off to work we went. The first thing I noticed was the peronsal pace wasn’t all that cracked up to be. In fact I couldn’t even notice the difference. Thats when we realized the small plastic piece we found at the bottom of the box is what engages the personal pace, so it wouldn’t even work. No wonder the personal pace system didn’t seem that good. I called Toro and have to say they were awesome. They spoke english and answered the phone within a couple of minutes. They directed me where to take the mower for my free repair and were very professional. OK now that you heard our long winded story, lets get into the meat and potatoes of this machine.
The model of the Toro Personal Pace Super Bagger Mower is 20197 21. This is one of their top of the lines push mowers. The 21″ mower is powered by a Honda GCV160 engine that has an overhead cam design. There is no choke or primer to mess around with. The only thing that’s on the engine you have to mess with is the gas on/off valve. Just turn it on the on piston and pull. We know the engine is new, but we started it probably 30 times, not in a roll but over a month, and it always started in one pull. In fact Toro has a five year warranty with this mower that if it doesn’t start in two pulls or less, they will fix it free of charge. Toro also backs the mower with a five year warranty which says a lot. The overall weight of the mower is 89 lbs, so it is on the heavy side, well compared to mowers that don’t have drive system on it. The deck is made from cast aluminum, so you don’t have to worry about the deck rusting, like my old steel deck. So when you think about it, an aluminum deck, the Toro name and a Honda engine, you should get a life time of use out of this machine. The user has three options on what to do with their clippings. You can mulch, bag or use the side discharge. We used all three and have to say all three worked great. The mulching did a great job, better than expected, but our blade was new and sharp. For the side discharge, you can just lift a small door and attach the chute without any tools. The bag is what really surprised me. The bag looks a lot small then my old mower bag. So at first I was a little disspointed as I thought I would have to empty the bag more often. After using the bags a couple times I realized that I was actually emoting it less often, hence the super bagger. It does hold 2 cu ft, but what seems to really do the trick is the large discharge that leads to the bag so you can pack more in there.
The mower can be adjusted to 7 different heights and there are large numbers nest to the wheels, so it tells you the height. Maybe they all have this now a day, but my old mower didn’t have that, so I was always guessing. I was playing the 50-50-90 rule. When you have a 50, 50 chance of being right, 90% of the time you will be wrong. The wheels are all 8″ and you get great traction in the back with the rear turf wheels. This is important since the drive type of this mower is on the back.
There two things I really want to talk about with this mower that are awesome. The blade stop system and the personal pace. Lets start with the blade stop system. I have to give it to Toro as I love this system. Mowers now a day, wow I sound old, all seem to have a safety feature on them where they shut off if you don’t hold down the lever that engines the motor and blade. To me this is very annoying. Every time I have to empty the bag or stop and pick up a ball in front of the mower, it shuts off and I have to restart it. I am sure all this safety stuff happened because some guy, who probably was drinking and got his foot chopped off and now every manufacture has to use this safety system. Well Toro has a Blade Stop System that by passes this annoying safety feature, but their system still keeps you safe. Once you start the mower, the only thing that is running is the motor, but not the blade. Then you pull down a small handle and it engages the blade. When you want to stop and empty the bag or pick up a stick in front of the mower, just let the lever go and the blade stops, but the motor still runs. No more starting and stopping the mower, I love it. Before this, yes I was lazy, I would just run over sticks, rocks, toys and other items that got in my way because I hated always having to pull start the engine to just start mowing again. Now I can actually take care of my blade for this mower and make sure it stays sharp because I won’t have to run things over. This is also a great feature because when the blade is stopped and the engine is still running, the personal pace system will still work. So I can be lazy and let the lawnmower push itself back to the garage while I just walk behind it.
The personal pace system has to be the coolest idea behind this mower. In the old days I remember mowers had a small little lever, labeled one through five. You select the speed and just go with it. Sometimes it was too slow and other times it was too fast where is would drag you around the yard. The personal pace stops all that. As a user, you actually dictate the speed. The system is built into the handle bars where you grip the lawnmower. So as you walk faster, you naturally put more pressure on the handle bars, so that tells the mower to move the wheels faster. As you walk slower, you are putting less pressure on the handle bars, so then it tells the wheels to slow down. I have to say when I first heard about this, I thought it was just another cleaver gimmick, but its not. This system actually does what it says and it does it great. The only down side to the system and it only seems on this model, is that small plastic piece we spoke about earlier. The pastil piece does protrude out a little, so it does seems it might break if you hit a tree branch or something else. It would make more sense if this was made out of metal. The other lawnmowers Toro makes, do not have this. They look fully integrated into the handle bars with nothing to break. When I did take my mower in, I asked about this being a problem and they indicated this was the first mower they have seen this break, so I do have to take them for their word.
All in all this is an awesome mower. The mower is more expensive then other mowers, but with the Toro name, the Alumium deck and the Honda engine, we don’t see why this won’t last you a long time. The peronsal pace system is incredible and worth every penny. The blade stop system is a great benefit, one which should be on every mower. Most important the mower cut the grass and produced a great looking lawn. The only downside is the small plastic piece. Other than that this mower is worth every penny.