This week, we finally followed through with a goal I've been working toward for a couple of years; getting a Cyclone Rake for our ~1 acre of fall cleanup. Upon speaking with one of the customer service people, I was recommended to get the Commander; the second model up.
Last night I finally finished the assembly and preparation (took about 3 hours altogether). The engine started right up on the first pull. We are very happy with the quality of this machine. There is nothing about it that makes you think, "why the heck is that this way..." It is all laid out with much thought. There were a couple of very minor imperfect parts. I emailed the company and they are sending new pieces forthwith.
Last night, I finally got to give it a try. The blower/mulcher was amusingly powerful. The exit passageway from the inflated catcher felt like jet wash. I don't think this machine will have any trouble handling heavy leaf buildup when the season goes into full swing here.
Unfortunately, I think the person who recommended this model for us was trying to sell us up without listening to my needs. We have awful hills with lots of obstacles. On the back of the X324, the Commander is monstrous. This would be fine if we had flat open land but that is not the case for us. I wanted to know what the worst case was going to be so I mowed and mowed and mowed until the catcher got quite full, up and down one of our large slopes, and across it as well to see how stable the machine is off camber.
As it turns out, once the catcher gets 3/4 full or more, the weight of it severely hinders the ability for the small X324 to handle it. Instead of the front wheels steering across the hills, the weight of the Rake starts pulling down hill and control is lost. Even trying to pull the massive beast straight up the hills was fruitless. The rear wheels of the tractor just spin and the transaxle gets a real workout when it does have traction.
Another aspect that I didn't consider about these machines is that the rigid mounting scheme is great for backing up (on flat land) but it is IMPOSSIBLE to use this machine at the edges of landscaping. If you have an inside turn, the bagging cart has to step over the border. In my case, it was a small stone retaining wall that first showed me this limitation. In trying to follow the edge of a turning/climbing garden bed, the caster wheel was swept right over the edge of the retaining wall, hanging in free air. It's a good thing this happened at the beginning when the catcher was empty. If it had been full, I don't know what might have happened.
We are planning to exchange the machine for the smallest size available. We'll have to empty it more often, but at least we'll live through the work. I'll report more when there is more to share, and also get some pictures asap too.