Troy-Bilt has always been a well-known brand when it comes to lawn mowers, but this year they’ve come out with a new line of lawn mowers that feature their new “TriAction Cutting System™” which is a collection of improvements designed to cut grass and mulch grass better than other mowers.
A month or so ago Troy-Bilt contacted me after noticing how often I used my Troy-Bilt chipper vac and asked if I would like to review one of their new walk-behind mowers with this TriAction Cutting System™. In exchange for a fair review, I was given my choice of a Troy-Bilt mower and I went with the model that Popular Mechanics picked as one of their most popular lawn mowers: the Troy-Bilt TriAction TB230. It was also the most affordable mower of their picks. What follows is my review of the Troy-Bilt TriAction TB230, the good and the bad.
The new Troy-Bilt TB230 is getting a lot of attention because it offers a good mix of popular lawn mower features and details that are often found on higher-end walk-behind mowers but it still retails for under $300.
Here are the specs and details:
- ReadyStart Choke System that requires no priming
- Self-propelled front wheel drive
- Variable speed squeeze grip with tighten/loosen adjustment
- Safety squeeze operated blade control bar
- 3-position handle adjustment
- 21″ steel mulching mower deck
- Deck wash valve for easy clean-up
- 3 discharge options: mulch, side or rear bag
- 1.86-bushel grass catcher bag with wide mouth empty
- Side discharge chute
- 8″ front wheels, 11″ rear wheels
- 6 position deck heigh adjustment, single lever for each wheel set
- 190cc* Briggs & Stratton engine
- Features the Troy-Bilt TriAction Cutting System™ (see below)
- Retail price: $289
- Availability – Lowes stores or website or the Troy-Bilt website
A word on pricing: When you consider that Troy-Bilt is a well-established brand name and when you realize that your mower will most likely last your 10 years or more, you begin to realize that $30 a year is a small price to pay for all the features you get in the TB230. In fact, the $289 price tag puts it squarely in the middle of the price range for self-propelled mowers from known brands and when you compare features the TB230 has many of the same features that are found in most mowers that are $50 to $100 more than it.
If you’re looking for a deal on a Troy-Bilt mower you may want to keep an eye out for coupons from Lowes over the next few weeks. This is about the time they normally publish those $10 off $50 or more and $50 off $250 or more coupons in their newsletters and the Sunday papers. Getting a Troy-Bilt TB230 for $239 would be a heck of a deal!
Another nice option: Troy-Bilt offers financing through its website on some of its lawn mowers and other eqipment.
Unboxing The Lawn Mower
Before I could test it, of course, I had to get it out of the box. I received this new lawn mower from Troy-Bilt in pretty much the same way I received my Troy-Bilt Chipper Vac a couple years ago: I had it shipped right to my door. The mower in the box weighs over 70 pounds so plan appropriately if you’re going to pick it up from a store. The nice part is that the sturdy box has side handles so it can be lifted easily and the mower comes almost completely assembled.
I was up and running in about 15 minutes, but that could have been less if I wasn’t taking so many photos. I opened the box, set aside the mower bag and instructions and then just moved four bolts to assemble the handle. I have to admit that the fire-engine red of the mower really looks great. I remember being just as excited by the color when I opened the box for my chipper vac. Troy-Bilt uses a solid, rich, pleasing red color on all their equipment and it’s really attractive to the eye.
Upon assembling the handle I came across another nice feature that you don’t realize is important until you don’t have it: the mower handle assembly has three different pitch angles possible, so if you’re a little tall or a little short you can adjust the handle to your liking. My old mower didn’t have this and I always felt as though I had to slouch just an inch or so to really get the handle to the right height for me. After rolling the mower right out of it’s box I just had to put in motor oil (provided), position the pull cord and gas it up. With all those things out of the way I took a few more photos I was pretty much ready to go. There was no priming needed.
It started on the first pull! Yep, right out of the box!
One of the reasons I went with the TB230 over any other TriAction motor was the use of a Briggs & Stratton engine. I’ve always had good luck with their engines starting and running well for years on end, so I decided I’d stick with what worked for me. There is one Troy-Bilt TriAction mower that comes with a Honda engine if that’s you’re thing.
Now that I knew it ran I took it for a quick test walk around the yard. The self-propelled mower moved pretty quickly and the variable speed handle worked pretty much as you would expect: pull it back to move faster, let it go to slow down. The blade control handle was easy to hold down and when I released it the mower stopped immediately. The handle is a metal bar with no rubber grip or padding of any kind, so I could see where it might get hot if it were left out in the sun while you went in for lunch, but it otherwise felt pretty comfortable for my lawn mower’s maiden voyage.
The Lawn Mowing Test
So now it was time for a good old-fashioned lawn mowing test. I was purposely letting the grass in part of my backyard grow high as part of a test to see if it was healthy to let grass go to seed, so I had an area that was ripe for cutting. The grass was high, though not too thick, so I figured it would be good for testing the mulching capabilities.
First, I took my current mower on a run through the high grass, up one direction and back in another. My current mower is a mulching mower, only a couple of years old and was originally bought for about $275, which is in the same price range as the Troy-Bilt TriAction TB230. It has a new blade and I’ve maintained my lawn mower fairly consistently over the years. It was able to cut the grass well, but it left some tall blades here and there and after only two passes I already had a little layer of cut grass blades forming a floating blanket over my lawn. Overall, the results weren’t bad, but if I did my entire lawn with my existing mower I was clearly going to have to rake up the clippings.
I chose another spot about 2 feet away from the first path where the grass was an identical height and thickness and took the self-propelled Troy-Bilt up the line and then back down. I immediately noticed a couple things:
First, the walking with it was much smoother than with my older mower. I had both mowers set for the highest setting, but the TB230 has larger back wheels which seemed to make quite a difference.
Second, the front rake guard really was sort of guiding the taller grass right into a channel as I drove over it. My grass wasn’t particularly trampled or wet, but it did seem to make a little bit of a difference.
The real proof, though, was taking a look at the path after I had gone over it. There was, quite literally, no trace of grass clippings on my lawn. So no clippings, no clumps, no little paths or trails of grass. None!
It was almost as if the grass was cut and pulverized into powder. I later went ahead and mowed a much larger section and found the same to be true: even with tall and sometimes thick grass, I very rarely had any clumps or layers of grass that needed to be raked or spread out. It was almost scary!
Even more telling was what my wife said when she saw the back yard after being cut: “Oh, so you raked, too?”
Yes, the cutting and mulching ability of this mower was that good.
I’m not sure if there were no grass clumps because of the S-blade or the rake guard or the design of the deck, but Troy-Bilt’s claim that this mower design cut grass “better” really seems to hold true. The area of lawn that I cut was much more evenly cut and simply looked like it was a much more level and “clean” surface. My grass was all fairly dry and it’s still early in the season, but I’m optimistic about how it will mow when the grass is thicker and a little damper after a week of summer rain.
It’s difficult to actually describe the subtle differences you can have in cut grass and, as I learned, it’s even more difficult to actually photograph them. Instead I’ll just link to two hi-res images if you really want to try to see for yourself: the first image is the path my old mower left, the second image is the path that the Troy-Bilt TriAction lawn mower left.
Now let’s look at the details of some of the key features!
The TriAction Cutting System
The TriAction Cutting System™ is, as the name suggests, three different improvements to the traditional lawn mower design. The whole idea is cut grass more evenly, mulch it into smaller pieces when it’s being cut, and disburse it in a less haphazard pattern than a traditional mower. The three aspects of the TriAction Cutting System™ are:
1. Front Rake Guard: The front nose of the mower is fitted with a plastic “rake” of a sort which Troy-Bilt claims will help guide your grass into a more upright position your mower moves over it. The purpose of this is simple: if your grass is standing up straight then the cut should be more even. When you actually see the rake it doesn’t look like much more than a bunch of plastic teeth sticking down. Did it help guide the grass into an upright position? That’s hard to say, though I could see where it might help separate grass that is damp and tangled to some extent.
2. S-Blade: The blades used in TriAction cutting mowers are not conventional straight mower blades with a slight twist. Instead, the profile of the blade actually looks a little bit like an “S” supposedly will create more air circulation and lift which means the grass blades have a greater chance of being cut multiple times and being mulched more finely as they move around under the mower. I was actually pretty impressed by the mulching capability of the Troy-Bilt mower and I have a feeling this new blade design has a lot to do with it.
3. Symmetrical Deck: Troy-Bilt has made the mower deck out of stamped metal in a symmetrical circle so that a stronger vacuum can be made in the mower housing. This shape works with the S-blade to improve air circulation and discharge the grass a little more easily. This is not a new concept. A lot of lawn mowers have circular blade housings, but a lot don’t. Many lawnmower blade housings are “mostly” symmetrical but that symmetry is broken with the grass discharge area off the side or back. That being said, this symmetrical deck combined with the S-Blade might be what adds to the real cutting and mulching power of this mower.
You can’t argue with the results: this lawn mower really does cut and mulch grass remarkably well.
Based on my experience, the Troy-Bilt TB230 is one darn fine self-propelled mower and is possibly the best lawn mower currently available at its price.
The Troy-Bilt TB230 was easy to use, easy to start and especially easy to set up and get going. The throttle was adjusted well for me so when I squeezed the handle the front-wheel drive mower pulled forward just as I expected. It had a nice range of speed and go up to a quick walk if I really wanted to go that fast. The blade keeps spinning even when the mower isn’t pulling itself forward, so you can easily pull and push the mower manually if that’s your thing or you need to back out of a corner.
The front-wheel drive worked well and the larger back tires did seem to make the whole mower run a little smoother and it seemed pretty easy to push around. There is some weight to it, but nothing more than what you’d expect of a lawn mower. Rear-wheel drive might give a little more pushing power, but the front-wheel drive made turning pretty easy.
Bagging and Discharge
Yes, the bag is small, but it held a fair amount of grass and it filled completely up before needing to be emptied. I attribute this to both the mulching power of the TB230 and the wide mouth of the bag. It was actually pretty easy to empty as well. Just pop it off and dump. Very little shaking was really needed in my few test runs with the bag. The side discharge worked pretty much as expected. I almost always just mulch my grass right into the lawn (for ease and environmental reasons) so I didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about collecting grass.
Deck Wash Valve
A lot of expensive mowers now have a little hose valve on their mower decks. The idea is that you can clean out the underside of your mower by screwing or clicking your garden hose into the valve, turning on the water and then running your mower blade for a few minutes. You’re then supposed to turn off the water, turn off your mower, detach the hose and then run your mower for another few minutes to make sure everything is dry.
The whole deck washing process was relatively quick and painless. I was expecting water to go splashing everywhere, but it was mostly contained to right under the mower. I flipped the mower over after drying it, expecting to see bright red paint was shining in the sun, but it looked pretty much like it had before I washed it: stained with the green from grass clippings and a few random tufts of grass here and there. My mower deck was clean, but not spotless by any means. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I still think I’ll be scraping old grass bits out from my mower deck every now and then.
Some reviewers have complained about the various plastic parts being used on this mower instead of metal, but I actually prefer the durable plastics they use these days. The mower is maneuverable, sturdy and the plastic parts can always be replaced if you somehow managed to break something.
I did have a small issue with the way the grass clippings were collecting on the back top of the mower deck when I was mulching my grass. As I mowed I noticed a few bits of cut grass (powder, almost!) blowing through a small area where the back discharge door hinges were attached. It wasn’t much, but after mowing my full backyard I had a good two handfuls of tiny grass clippings collected on the back deck.
When comparing the number of features for the money, the Troy-Bilt TB230 can’t be beat. It’s simply the best lawn mower available if you want a self-propelled mower that’s under $300 and has lots of options and mulching power.
Go ahead and look around at your various home improvement stores and lawn and garden centers and do some comparison shopping for yourself: almost all of the Troy-Bilt mowers, especially the self-propelled TriAction models, are competitively priced and offer more flexibility than most other makes and models of lawn mowers. I’ve been impressed with the quality and usefulness of my Troy-Bilt chipper vac for years, and I’m looking forward to being just as impressed by this new line of Troy-Bilt lawn mowers as well!