I have noticed you in a review forum, which does have some negative comments, myself included. I also noticed that you as a marketting person seem to be asking questions, which to me, finally is sensible on Honda's part.
With all due respect to how Honda rates their machines, i think this will be one of the best forums that you can be in and a smart move by Honda. I say this because the guys in here have had a lot of experience with various equipment and each of those machines always has some downfall with it and this includes the $1639 Contractor mower by Honda, which we do need to be better in a couple areas. Chutes are the worst problem and lack of gearbox another. Compared to cost of other mowers, some half the price and able to perform as some contractors recommend, we as contractors are expecting the "Bees Knees" with Honda, and something that works.
That $1639 cost is huge to us, if we have consistant downtime and loss of money through too many repairs. One concern, we all have, is being able to catch grass. This is what our customers expect and should be able to have. This is what they pay for. Too not catch grass, causes a huge dent in our quality of work and than causes our businesses, problems. That is why some of us get a bit irate. We work hard and don't want to work any harder. We wish to be home with our families, knowing that we did good quality work and can relax at night also knowing, that we didn't lose too much in our hard earned funds. We don't want to be stressed, worrying if the customer is going to relieve us of our services because they saw us not be able to catch grass, on their prized lawn. Your presence shows that our patronage is also vital to you.
The Honda engine's are by far one of the superior engines. This however, does not justify the cost if a lot of the other things do not work how they should. We have wished for this moment, where we have a person who can relay things for the better of us and the better of Honda.
1. Are the GSV190's good for contractor mowers and could these become an option also?
I have written in a review some of the problems all Honda mowers have-but unsure if you have ever seen my review. These problems are consistent with other contractors and home owners alike.
So here goes.
As stated, the Honda engine is excellent, one of my customers expects me to mow thick grass and these engines perform. Especially having a gear box. We need to be able to slow down with the thick stuff but keep revs up. I agree with you, that you need to stop the mower before changing gears and i have never had a problem with my gearbox at all. It seems to not want to go into gear with the propel engaged anyway. Maybe they could have an extra high gear for contractors though; because we are fast on our feet. It maybe hard for the likes of Honda reps to fathom-but we almost run, when we are used to our mowers. In fact, i stand beside my Honda, like i am on a leisurely stroll with my girlfriend. I want it to be faster, because the last thing i want as my girlfriend are my work tools. The engine; that is the good!
2. Now The handle bars are very weak(especially near the cable cluster). I have broken 2 and never have i ever broken handlebars before on any mower. They need a support across the centre as well, because i have broken the bottom connector also. I manourvre as all others do. Since i have been mowing lawns for 20 years, i don't like the excuses i get from dealers. They claim sand or rough treatment-but if this has never happened before, why is it happening now? When trying to weld these handlebars because i can't outlay cash all the time, i can see how thin the metal is. It splutters with the welder, it is so thin.
3. Anyway, it would be good to either be able to adjust the handlebars so they sit closer to our chest/top of stomach. They sit down near our groin and many times, i have hit my you know what. I am 5ft 8" With our speed, almost pushing the mower to help the propel, it hurts when you run into them.The bars dip near our knees sometimes when going over dips in lawns.
4. As for the gearbox, i have never had any troubles and have done some major work. I use the gearbox for what it is for( i use gears to suit the thickness of grass). The joining shaft from the motor to the gearbox however, i have had troubles with. I am not sure if the pins are like shear pins? But they do break and the pressed section that presses onto the spline, does come apart, making it impossible to raise the deck too high, once that happens. These are $95
5. The blades are very bad. I think it would be better to either shorten the blade, thereby making the disk diameter larger, or thickening up the steel, at least near the flute area. When we keep breaking the rise, flute, fin, whatever you call it, and still have most of the blade left, it is a waste. This alone costs downtime and lots of money. Even though they are cheap, it all adds up. I myself would prefer to pay just a little extra for something that lasts and works. I believe the the over stroke of the motor, also forces the disk to the front like it is oblong. What i mean by this, is that those extra G-forces in that area make the weak blade flex and create a cresent in the lawn. Making the disk a wider diameter would stop the flex of the blades and create a flatter mow.
6. The D spacer on the disk and blade bolts, needs to be stamped to the bolt design because i have worn disk bolt holes, just by the continual movement of the blade. Eventually they spin completely around, which i dare say is dangerous and also means disk replacement. This has only ever happened with my Honda's.
7. The wheels could possibly be stonger, especially the tread.
8. The cable that controls the propel could be stronger or thicker, this breaks at the gearbox, all the time, maybe even just that part of it could be strengthened.
9. The plastic guard at the back catches on the handlebars. Even though you have the blade brake, we zip tie it open, which i explain lower. The grass and dirt blows back in our face, and it is also a lot of messing around. I do like how they leave a gap for slashing, instead of tying rope to a handle.
10. The holder for the pull start could be set on top of the handlebar, instead of the side so that it doesn't catch on trees and what not.
11. The handlebar folding bolt knob(lugs) would be better as a lever style for speed; and to stop them from jamming on too tight on the right side or coming lose on the opposite side.
12. Now this is the biggest problem of all. The rear chute has to be fully open. A lot of us are going elsewhere because we can't take not catching grass anymore, it is too stressful, when customers are not happy, as well as trying to make a living and working harder than we should. If you could get your engineers to re-dedisign this, you would make many of us happy. Please keep the mulch plug strong though. The smaller honda's do not catch even short grass. This is by far the one thing we buy a Mower for. If we can not catch grass, it wouldn't matter if it was a Rolls Royce with a Jet engine(Rolls Royce, LOL), the machine is useless. Our customer's see this and don't like it. When we have 50 or so customers not happy, we go home unhappy as well.
My suggestion is to raise the gearbox and move it forward onto its own axle. This axle would obviously have steel bearings at the axle stilts. The axle itself would only need to be a bit wider than the gearbox. Than link a chain or double row chain from that axle to the wheel axle on the left side(standing behind mower, looking forward), therby opening the chute. The chain would be as close to the side as possible. It would also place the gearbox where we could service the cables easier. I am sure Honda designers would be able to cover it aesthetically. They already have the shaft cover.
Please do not let them turn it into a front wheel drive, because we lift the front wheels, when we turn, and sometime need to power out. 4x4, we could handle but not front wheel drive.
13. As for the blade brake. We all would prefer a blade brake over an engine brake; because an engine brake is just a lot of wear, pulling the start cord every catch load. This could be about 150 times per week for a contractor. Not to mention this extra strain on our shoulders.
My suggestion is something like a boat, that attaches to your wrist and plugs in or clip on. If you fall-the blades shuts off. If you need to empty the catch you just pull off the clip or pull out the plug. This way you wont have all of us contractors zip tying the thing open all the time. It is rather annoying trying to turn and be speedy with those things. This is why we zip tie it.
All these things add up to a lot of time and a lot of expense for us. It is really hard keeping customers as it is, without having to adjust costs to cope with all these annoying little things that could be easily fixed.
Anyway Dylan, these are my suggestions and recommendations. I am not telling you to do all of this now-but as a contractor, i have not much choice left in mowers now and starting to wonder whether it is worth it. I don't think i will be buying a Honda this season not until these things are fixed. My business can't cope with the downtime. By the way, the smaller mowers are even worse than the HRU216 i have.
Oh with the deck, i think it needs to be lighter but reinforced with replacable inner guards around the bottom edge, and rising above the side protrusion. Maybe also having the option of the fine cut twin bar blade also for different times of year.
Anyway Dylan, i believe if you could convince Honda to do these things, you would have the ultimate contractor's mower. I really don't think the things we need, would make it that much more expensive, if at all-but make a huge difference to our wellbeing and our days. We slog it out hard here most days and just to have something that works how we need it to, would be a godsend.