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Excellent Leaf Collection System
Written: Oct 11, 2007 (Updated Nov 8, 2011)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Quality, design, speed and overall performance.
The Bottom Line: This is a quality built machine that will save you time in dealing with your leaves. This is the solution to go with if you have A LOT of leaves.
There are several excellent reviews on this product already here and I wanted to add my perspective and opinion.
I have owned the Cyclone Rake for just about one year now and have survived a whole leaf season using it. Prior to the Cyclone Rake I had tried everything else smaller on the market to handle the insane amount of leaves I get. The best solution I had prior to this was the push cart style Craftsman Leaf Vacuum. This machine worked well but was not up to the volume of leaves I was dealing with. Using this option I was looking at 6+ solid weekends plus some evenings of work to get up all the leaves we get.
I have a half acre lot. May not sound like much but what it lacks for in size it makes up in quantity of leaves with 11 large maple tree and a few other small trees. As if this is not sounding bad enough I can clear all the leaves from these trees after they have fallen and I get even a bigger load of leaves that blow over from the school across the street. My yard has a small slope to about a third of it. If all the above does not sound bad enough with where my house is and the town’s policy I need to haul my leaves to a town compost area. I have my own compost pile but it does not handle the volume of leaves I get. To haul the leaves to the compost area I have an 8 ft by 4 ft trailer with 4 ft high walls that I tow with my car. To give you an idea of the volume of leaves I am talking about with the Craftsman Leaf Vacuum mulching I taking 10 to 11 trips per season. Unmulched I would guess the number would be closer to 50+ trips.
My Cyclone Rake Setup:
I am using a Craftsman LT3000 Lawn tractor with a 20HP OHV B&S engine and an automatic transmission. I have been very happy with this tractor and had bought it new for just the purpose of pulling the Cyclone Rake around. The engine is very smooth and strong with belt drive giving out before the engine shows any sign of slowing. You could do with a little lesser tractor but there are a few reason why this tractor or a comparable one would be a good choice, more on that later.
We chose the Cyclone Rake Commander Pro which use to be the middle of the line Cyclone Rake but now it is the bottom model offered. We chose it over the base model because of the upgrade to the bigger JetPath system, bigger 6.0 HP B&S I/C motor (now a 6.5HP is included) and the larger JetPath system which gave us the bigger pathway between the mower deck and the Cyclone Rake. The three upgrades we ordered were the Tuff Pro Urethane Hose, Power Bagger and the Dual Pro super wheels.
The project took me and my wife about 4-5 hours. Probably could have done it faster but we were being careful to do each step exactly as described, when you spend this much you want to get it right. The most difficult portion of the whole setup was the attachment of the hitch to the lawn tractor. You cannot use your standard tractor mower hitch as the Cyclone Rakes use a rather unique parallel bar system to stop it from jack knifing. The great thing about Woodland Power Products is not only do they give you very detailed instructions but they give you good quality hand tools to help with the project, a very nice quality touch.
Assembly after getting the trailer hitch done was pretty straight forward after that, just took us some time go through rather big collection of parts and put them together correctly. As you go through this you will notice the parts are well constructed and you will get the feeling they wanted this product to last for you. Parts all have a good heavy duty feel to them. For some of the parts that will see the heaviest abuse they even provide a you a spare of or make the part easy to replace when the time comes. They even provided nice little details like a can of WD-40 to help oil the latches that hold some of the pieces together, once again nice touch. For the connection to your tractors mower deck out Woodland will ask you the model of the tractor and provide you with an appropriate collection adapter for your design. For those with bagging systems already they also provide an adapter for you but you will find Woodland solution offers a wider flow path.
Once you get this whole machine put together between the tractor and the Cyclone Rake you will have a rather long vehicle to drive through your yard. You will want to be very careful your first few times driving it as this is different the pulling your typical trailer around with your tractor. The biggest reason for the difference is the parallel bar hitch that connects to your tractor. The end result is if you turn the wheel on your tractor in one direction the Cyclone Rake is initially going to swing the opposite way. The biggest areas you have to be careful or are going around trees and straightening out and traveling along a wall and then turning away. This might sound like a foolish design flaw but it has a few huge benefits. First of all you can backup effortlessly as there are no surprises where the unit is going to go, it just follow exactly where you point the tractor. The other big advantage is it allows the JetPath tube to stay in the same smooth arc between your tractor and the Cyclone Rake not ever bending or stretching. Having said the above I have not yet crashed mine into anything but I have heard of others doing so and I could see how it would be fairly easy to do.
To get started you simply start the motor on the Cyclone Rake and then hop on your tractor, start it up, engage the blade and pull away. The 6.0HP Briggs & Stratton Engine Woodland includes is good, powerful and up to the job. I found it to operate smoothly, it never got bogged down on me and was reasonably fuel efficient. You will most likely want to look into hearing protection as you will have both engines running and one of them running an impeller. I had owned a chipper and shredder and this machine is much quieter then that was. To pickup leaves you can simply just drive over them and suck them right up. I have been able to mow at a pretty quick pace with the cyclone rake having no problems keeping up. What will most likely limit how much you can pick up at a time is how many leaves will fit under your mower deck, so I usually leave my deck higher then if I was mowing. After having done so much leaf work over my life here are the things I am amazed by. In the first year of using this unit NEVER once did the JetPath clog! That is impressive with the amount of leaves I was sending through this machine which were damp on some occasions. The mulching if the leaves are dry is just about as fine mulch as I have seen with pieces maybe as small as a quarter of an inch, if they are wet they will come out bigger. This unit can hold a lot of leaves as I can clear my whole yard in 2 to 3 loads of the Cyclone Rake, for comparison on the Craftsman unit I would estimate I would have about 80 to 90 loads. This machine is great, I use to dread leaf season like you would not believe now I pretty much look forward to it to play with this machine.
You will know when the Cyclone Rake is full because there is a blow off bypass that will shoot the leaves out to the side of it when full, a nice simple system that works well and stops you from getting to the point where the motor is clogged. I then shut off the Cyclone Rake motor and drive the whole thing to an optimal place to unload. I ordered the Power Bagger option because it give you six tough foldable cartons that will fit inside the Cyclone’s collection bag rather tightly. This allows me to lift the bins out and dump them in my utility trailer. This is not quite a smooth operation as it sounds as I would say 10% of the leaves manage to make their way around the bins and I need to then empty that portion out with a broom on to a tarp. After unloading simply place the bins back in, close the tailgate up and you are ready to get another load. The door closing is well made with two sets of overlapping flaps that Velcro and lock together.
The upgrade to the Dual Pro wheels I think is a nice upgrade if you are ever going to use this unit on soft ground, hilly ground or plan to do just straight grass. Under the heaviest weight I have never had them sink into or cutup my yard. I have only once used this unit when mowing my grass since I usually just use my push mower for that job. The one time I did use the cycle lake to cut the grass in the spring I made it through about half of the back yard before I noticed my tractor was actually getting pulled down the hill sideways a little. I drove to my compost pit and went to dump the load only to discover it was heavier then I wanted to lift and dump. At that point I appreciated just how heavy that much grass can be, so I opened the tailgate and dug the grass out. Make sure you appreciate just how much weight you will be hauling around depending on what you are picking up. I personally think they should have made the Dual Pro wheels standard with the weight you can carry.
When selecting your tractor if you have much or any hills in your yard I would suggest a motor bigger then the 13HP minimum Woodland suggests. Thankfully even the most basic lawn tractors now come with 18HP motors which is the minimum I would suggest for this hard work if you have any hills. The second option I would heavily suggest on your tractor if you have many obstacles is the automatic or CVT transmission. The automatic transmissions makes it much easier to creep around trickier obstacle like tree and gardens. The automatics also make it easy and smooth if you need to reverse your course. With the design of the Cyclone Rake they are suppose to be compatible with Zero Turn Radius (ZTR) Tractors but in this case I am thankful to have a conventional tractor because with a ZTR there is going to be a lot of unit behind you that would need to swing with your turns.
There are some other competitive pull behind tractor leaf collection systems but one of the big bonuses with the Cyclone Rake is how well it stores when you pull it all apart. Being able to fold up the trailer portion of the Cyclone Rake is a great asset for storing it in the off season in minimal space. After that you will need to come up with place for the motor unit which is on wheels (another nice touch), and the connecting hose. Taking it all apart and folding it up takes me about 15 minutes to do so not something I would want to do after each use but it is not difficult to do or put back together.
This is a great machine and has been a life saver as well as a serious time saver. Having said that this is over kill unless you have a real lot of leaves to deal with. The machine is of a considerable cost at over $1100 without adding in upgrades. We did the math prior to buying and the cost of bringing in a contractor to do our leaves would have this machine and tractor pay for itself in about 3-4 years with the large quantity of leaves we have. Woodland Power Products provides a 3 year warranty on it, another great way to show they stand behind this product. I believe most users will be happy with the Command Pro and will not need to upgrade to any of the higher models. If you have a serious amount of leaves to get done and am investing the time I was I suggest this machine to fix your situation.
We are heading into our fifth leaf season with the Cyclone Rake and we are still as happy with it now as we were after out first season. We have had no problems with any part of the system to date. We have even been using the machine to help out a few neighbors. We have stopped using the power bin bagger and found it more efficient to either dump the leaves on a tarp or directly into our utility trailer. Only part showing some signs of wear are a few of the seams on the collection bag but nothing that makes me concerned that it will wear out in the next few seasons. The Cyclone Rake's B&S engine is still running great, uses no oil and starts easy with lots of power. I have noticed that the company now offers more models but if I had to buy one again I would purchase the same model with the same upgrades except skip the power bin bagger. The Craftsman tractor we have been using with the system has also been problem free but looking like it will need a new battery soon. Good luck and enjoy the Cyclone Rake!
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