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 can hardly be labeled 'a lawn geek', yet...there was a time (1972?), when along with my two brothers, we would have to cut my family lawn bi-weekly, as part of our exhaustively long garden chore schedule. Fast-track to today - and although I'm not admitting any less competitiveness today ( humph? Really?)when it came to cutting the lawn properly, it was a very big deal ( maybe because my Dad was an artist, and a one-time greenskeeper during college - yeah, that could be a couple of reasons why). Dad had an uncanny and almost unhealthy appreciation for attractive lawn stripes and grids,( you know - estate-meets-Fenway-Park-quality-stripes) and as a family we we're (and continue to be) perpetually 'old-school' - which mean - - OK. I'll be blunt. ,Push-mowers.  Push mowers without engines. Push mowers without engines before they were hipster cool.

It took guts, gear and talent. My brothers got the guts and gear, but I got the talent. Which, when it comes to lawn care, I somehow ( thankfully) lost.

Today, our once impeccably stripy lawn neither stripy, plaid or impeccable. It's  clearly much smaller, but it is the same lawn. I mean, it smells the same, unlike other peoples lawns, which is difficult to describe, but it must be our unique combination of weeds and grass selections.  Gardens change, or evolve, which is completely normal, and I have accepted this as part of maintaining, or shall I say ' stewarding' a piece of land which has been in my family for over 100 years. Today, our garden has more trees, more beds, and more things to navigate around, and to make this terrible long post shorter -  I have avoided investing in a ride-on mower for these reasons. Yes, a ride on would be fun, but I could never 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.

Now - my older brothers have their own homes, their own kids who they can torture, and their own lawns ( some, even with nice, neat rows and striped), which leaves me (the youngest) with our older ( ancient) family lawn. All 2.5 acres of it. Even though I have the largest lawn in the neighborhood, there is no ride-on mower in our garage - until now. 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. And, the seat, cup holder and…mmmmm I kind of like it.

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's a "rider", what ever that means. OK - 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 the equipment while in Arizona, what they were thinking when they designed this thing, they replied with far more answers and reasons than I had asked about.

First, The "scooter-like" design was intentional - designed this way 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.

Third, 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 for us with rare plants, as most ride on mowers are designed not for practical reasons  - like for those people who have gardens, but instead  for aesthetic ones.

Forth, the chair-like seating - which allows one to sit like a human with knees in a comfortable position ( my issue with most toilets, too - BTW-TMI), leaving lots of room, especially around the steering wheel. I rarely find this feature designed well with other ride-on mowers.

So guy's, this is not just for you ladies, you dudes can now ride it - no excuses ( don't worry, the designers at Troy Bilt still took care to add a beer holder.

Mow responsibly. ( hmmm - another toilet issue….).

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 based on first for looks. I do buy for cost, usually going for the most expensive because I believe that one gets quality for a good price, yet I also appreciate some design practicality - or impracticality if it looks awesome. And while I am on the subject of design - let's be real, this machine is not ugly, if anything, I love it's black and red motif, and, it certainly matches my red and black 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 cleanly and tightly, that I didn't need a bag.

 On the down side? It doesn't have headlights, (or a horn for that matter). Then again, I am a toy designer.  But there is that drink holder, and a cushy seat with springs. Oh, and a nice feature is that when you stand up, the mower automatically turns off. Nice.

All in all, I can say this - the way I feel about the ride-on mower category has changed forever. If you've been looking for a mower that you can ride, but one that is smaller, less expensive and more maneuverable, than finally, there is one. It's truly practical, and not about being a massive 4WD beast. Many of us will appreciate that.

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). I am not an easy person to please. The mower, as part payment for being a 2013 Saturday 6 blogger, was offered free to me to keep ( and one will be given away this year to one of my readers). I was encouraged to be honest, to share my opinion and I know they really meant that. 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.

  4. Anonymous11:12 AM

    It's and its are two different words. You seem to think that "it's" is the only spelling. The rule is very simple-- it's only means "it is" or "it has". Any other meanings are its.

    Now, I'm not saying that I am competitive ( humph? Really?) but, when it comes to my brothers and I...

    You mean my brothers and me, not I.....again, the rule is simple, Google it.

  5. Thanks Anonymous! I am always ready for criticism,especially with grammar, spelling and anything related to writing. I just suck at it, and it's ( see) so hard to get through some of these blocks. They are what keeps me from ever writing a book, which in some ways, I guess, will spare many of you from my rambling and irritating errors. Stay happy - and at the very least, enjoy the images.

  6. Anonymous12:49 PM

    wow, its <(see what I did there.) lawn mowing now grammar class.

  7. Gardens change, or evolve, which is completely normal, and I have accepted this as part of maintaining.Mark R. Smith


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