June 2, 2013

Product Review - Troy Bilt TB30 Neighborhood Rider

The new Neighborhood Rider manufactured by Troy Bilt offers value and practical features wrapped up in a unique design that allows this ride on mower to do things average ride-ons could never do before - like fit through gates.

I am not a lawn geek, but...there was a time ( like, 1972?) when along with my two brothers, I would have cut my the family lawn. Now, I'm not saying that I am competitive ( humph? Really?)  but, when it comes to my brothers and I, cutting the lawn was a very big deal - Dad wanted nice stripes and grids, and, we were ( and continue to be) perpetually 'old-school' - meaning, push-mowers. It took guts, gear and talent. My brothers got the guts and gear, but I got the talent. Today, the lawn is much smaller, but it still the same lawn, only now, it has more trees, more beds, and more things to navigate around, so I have avoided investing in a ride-on mower because although it would be fun, I just could not justify it.

Ride Forest, Ride - The TB30 Neighborhood Rider allows the rider to see exactly where the edge of the lawn
is, allowing one to navigate close to rare plants and flowers beds, without giving them a hair cut.

Today, My older brothers have their own homes, and their own lawns, leaving me (the youngest) with our old family lawn. All 2.5 acres of it - we have the largest lawn in the neighborhood, but no ride-on mower. All of our neighbors have riding mowers, which they use to cut their puney quarter acre lots, but a riding mower just never made my short-list. That is, until the folks at Troy Bilt came along, and I discovered this odd, yet appealing design.

I'm not a small dude, and little things like leg room can often be a make or break design flaw. With this TB30
Troy Bilt Neighborhood Rider, I have room to spare, clearly it's because of it's scooter-like design, it's comfortable,
 as if I am seated in a chair. No, that is not a horn in the middle of the wheel - I tried. But look at those lines,
nice design for a wheel on a mower, right?

When I chose to review a ride on mower, the decision did not come easy. Believe me, Troy Bilt makes some serious lawn equipment, but if I was to really be honest about this review, I wanted to find something new, not just accept a fancy ride on with headlights and all the bells and whistles just because it was free. Sure, it would have been fun to ask for a giant lawn tractor, or even a zero-turn beast just like the one that the landscapers use ( hey, Joe still isn't talking to me!), but as a product designer, I was not finding anything interesting - from a usability point, about the more typical tractors or mowers. This past March, while in Scottsdale at our Troy Bilt Saturday 6 kick off, I saw exactly what I wanted to write about - this crazy smaller ride-on mower that looked like something one would see cruising down the chip aisle at your local WalMart than on a golf course. I had to know more about this thing.

Although we no longer have sweeping, large lawns, we do have many 'garden rooms', and each one requires
some mowing, This mower fits through our garden gates, which is essential - some push mowers in the past
have not been able to squeeze through our gates. 

The TB 30 Neighborhood Rider, isn't even called a mower, it may look a little less 'buff' than it's bigger bro's, but this little red beast has some impressive features - the main one, being practicality. When I asked the folks at Troy Bilt who where helping us test ( "play with") the equipment while in Arizona, what they were thinking when they designed this thing, they replied far more answers and reasons than I had asked about. First, The "scooter-like" design was intentional - for a very good reason.

The TB 30 Neighborhood Rider is designed to do things that it's greater kin, cannot. For example, first - it can fit through  ones average 30" garden gates ( bing - we have lots of those!), Second, the Neighborhood Rider is designed not to have a long tractor-like front ( you know, the hood and long vents where farm tractors usually have their engines - not necessary on any lawn mower, but in this case, it allows one to see exactly where they are cutting - how brilliant is that? No more cutting into beds, nipping off rare plants as you turn, or guessing where you are cutting.

Thirdly, the 18 turning radius allows one to turn as if navigating around pallets of Oreos at a Wal.....wait - I mean I can carve around by alpine beds without trimming a single precious saxifraga from Tibet. Seriously, this is a huge plus as most ride on mowers are designed not for practical reasons, but for aesthetic ones. And forth, the chair-like seating allows ones knees to be in a comfortable position, leaving lots of room, especially around the steering wheel. I rarely find this in other ride-on mowers.  So guy's, this is not just for you ladies, you too can now ride it - no excuses ( don't worry, the designers at Troy Bilt still took care to add a beer holder. Mow responsibly.

See how the wheels steer? While sitting in the seat, I can see precisely where the lead wheel is running, allowing
me to cut close to beds and hedges without hitting cobblestones or dropping off of the edge.

The techy specs themselves, I will leave up to you, check out side-by-side comparisons here.  I rarely look at those sort of things, opting to buy first for looks ( I know, right? I can't help it.), and then second, I buy for cost. Third, comes pracicality, so OK..I am being honest. But let's be real, this machine is not ugly, if anything, I love it's black and red motif, and, it matches my chickens.

The blades on this ( an most of the Troy Bilt machines) devours grass, so few clipping are produces - most just get chomped up underneath. That said, you can use a bag if you save your clippings for mulch or the compost pile.

The Troy-Bilt Neighborhood Rider is not a big pricepoint either, retailing for just over $1000, it's has so much going for it, that many home gardeners might find it practical and useful. Great for both small, or large gardens, it takes up far less room than most ride on mowers, it is easy to start ( like many of the Troy Bilt products), it cuts the grass so cleaning and tightly, that I didn't even use a bad, or need to rake up and the grass cuts again and again, underneath, as all well designed mowers should do, but few do well. On the down side, it doesn't have headlights, (or a horn - I know, wouldn't that be just fun? Then again, I am a toy designer.)  It does have a drink holder though, and a cushy seat with springs. When you stand up, the mower automatically turns off!

All in all, I can say this about this mower - the way I feel about ride on's has changed forever, as now I can be flexible in how I cut, and with less of the fuss than that which comes with a larger tractor. If you've been looking for a mower that you can ride on, but one that is smaller, less expensive and more maneuverable, than finally, there is one.

The Troy Bilt TB30 Neighborhood Mower and Troy, our official Troy Bilt Rooster ( sold separately).

 NOTE:  Full disclosure, naturally - Troy-Bilt provided this TB30 Neighborhood mower for free ( but I got to choose what I wanted to test as well as write about), as part payment for being a 2013 Saturday 6 blogger. I was encouraged to be honest, to share my opinion. Honestly. So...OK. A headlight would have been nice! Stay tuned for an awesome Troy Bilt giveaway coming soon this summer on this blog - you won't believe how generous it will be.


  1. hah! my british husband aspires to this. but yes, verging on puny would be the only fare way to describe our lawn. which, in l.a., which should be replacing with native plants. but after 25 lawnless years in NY......we are dragging our feet.

    btw, have posted about annie's annuals in richmond, ca, today. your readers might like a look. have a great week!


  2. Great review Matt! Funny, I tried the horn right away too and was a little disappointed. :-) I love that it matches your chickens.


  3. How fast did you get it to go? j/k Seriously, that's a nice piece of machinery.



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