What Is Lawn Mower Racing? Origins, Builds & Rules
If you are a lawn mower owner and would like to have a bit of fun with it—apart from mowing your lawn—you should consider joining lawn mower races near you. Not only are they a lot of fun, but you also get to meet other people who love their machines as much as you do.
Most people who hear about lawn mower racing for the first time have the same questions, “does lawn mower racing count as a sport? Where does it happen?”
Surprisingly, yes. Lawn mower racing is a legitimate sport with its own governing association and is common in the US. It involves riding lawn mowers over a given distance and may include cutting the grass on the racing ground. However, most races typically do not allow mowers to have their blades on during the race.
The Origins of Lawn Mower Racing
The first known lawn mower race was performed in 1963 in Plank Hill, Indiana, USA, as an event for the 4th of July. Lawn mower races have been held every independence day since then.
This activity has even become a loved pastime in most parts of the world, especially in rural areas. People just want a sport that’s fast but at the same time inexpensive, accessible, and similar to motor races.
The Ashton organized the first lawn mower race on Mersey Cricket Club to fundraise for the Lancashire’s cricket legend and the Kevin Higg’s benefit fund in the UK. This race covered around 900 meters of grass and gained a lot of press, making it famous in the upcoming years.
How To Get Into Lawn Mower Racing
Fortunately, if you are interested in lawn mower racing, it’s not hard to get into the sport. You first need to download a copy of the US Lawn Mower Racing Association (USLMRA) guidelines.
You should also look for lawn mower races in your neighborhood either through your Facebook community page or from neighbors who have lived in the area for a long time. The next step should be building your lawn mower for the required races.
Types of Lawn Mowers Used
Not all types of lawn mowers are meant for racing. Most of them are not even suitable. The racers use modified lawn mowers for these events, such as removing the blades that cut the grass and improving the engine.
The most suitable mowers for racers to use in lawn mower races are fuel-efficient, comfortable, and sturdy. Additional provisions for the type of mower are included on the particular website for the race since they vary depending on countries and groups.
If you cannot afford to buy the mower with all the specified requirements, you can modify the one you have at home. Not only is it cheaper, but you can also pick and choose what you want to improve in the mower.
How To Build a Lawn Mower for Racing (7 Steps)
The good news is that you can build your racing lawn mower cheaply instead of buying one. You can even turn your family lawn mower into a racing machine. However, racers should keep in mind their safety when engaging in the races. Modifying a regular family lawn mower by yourself is not the safest option and includes a lot of risks.
It’s vital to ensure that the brakes, frame, steering wheel, and engine are modified to handle the additional speed after they are adjusted for racing. Keep in mind that there are around 6,400 accidents resulting from modified lawn mowers for racing every year.
Some of the tips that can help you build a safe lawn mower racer include:
1. Configure the Build
If you are changing your regular lawn mower to be a racing machine, the first step is to configure and find all the parts you need to build it. It’s almost the same as making a small car, and if you have experience in the field, you might have an easier time modifying your lawn mower.
Since most lawn mowers are unique builds, finding the right parts for the job might be a challenge. The parts you might need include tires, clutch, and gears. Some of them, such as the gearbox, can be found on eBay or other online stores that sell machine parts. Once you acquire all the necessary parts, building the lawn mower should be easy.
2. Frame Reinforcement
After finding all the items you need to build a racing lawn mower, the next step is for you to make a frame for your lawn mower. Remember that you need to fit your body in it and that the lawn mower will typically be racing on a rough track.
Therefore, the frame should have adequate suspension and reinforcement to keep it stable. Square frames are also the best option to ensure that the machine is sturdy and all the parts can be centralized.
3. Installing the Steering Wheel
The next step, which is the most essential, entails installing the steering wheel on the frame. The steering wheel, in this case, is essential for steering the lawn mower and balancing it. Therefore, it needs to be customized to enable the driver to race at high speeds without losing ground.
The steering wheel should also be stable, considering that most racing lawn mowers go at a speed of 50MPH, and an unstable wheel could increase the risk of an accident.
Most lawn mowers come with a weak steering wheel since they are not designed for speed or unstable grounds. This makes them high risk, and they’ve been known to pop when the racers are going at high speed. Also, ideally, there should be a strong and stable connection between the front wheels of the lawn mower and the steering.
If you decide to modify your lawn mower, you can build your own front axle or purchase one from a mechanical store. The best decision, in this case, would be to buy a front axle with a pre-built radius axle. Then, proceed by installing it at the front of the mower and above the engine.
Mowers that are pre-built for racing come with the right specifications. For example, the steering shaft has a lever that can link the axle to the steering wheel. This step is the most difficult, and if you have zero experience, you should consider getting an experienced mechanic to help.
4. Installing the Transmission
After installing the steering wheel to your lawn mower, you should install the transmission. The transmission shaft must be far off the ground but not too far up that it protrudes above the plate. You also need to determine the gearing ratio before installing the RAGB.
5. Installing the Brake System
You can decide you install either a manual or hydraulic brake. The latter is the more popular of the two since it does not require extensive knowledge of mechanics to install.
First, drill two holes through the frame where the caliper mounting system should go and work through it. The next step should be to bolt the master cylinder through the frame. This aluminum piece has three holes used in connecting the brake pedal that connects the rod.
After installing the brakes, ensure you test them several times to make sure they will not fail during the race.
6. Install the Floor Plates, Battery and Electrical System
The floor plate should be made to fit the frame of the lawn mower. It should be installed at a comfortable location and height and made using steel to ensure it can handle the weight of all the batteries and engines. It should also be spacious enough to accommodate the driver’s legs without them having to fold them too much.
The battery can either go under the seat or on top of the original bracket, which you can weld on the deck frame. Essentially, the battery should be placed behind or in front of the engine and at the center of the lawn mower to ensure its stability.
The next step is setting up the wiring in the lawn mower. To avoid an explosion or fire, the wiring should be neat and covered to prevent the driver from tripping on them.
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7. Engine Modification
The engine of a regular lawn mower does not have enough horsepower for racing. So, if you want your lawn mower to have an edge in the races, you must modify it or replace it with a better one. The most common engines of stock mowers are 12.5 hp, while the engine required for racing should be at least 50 hp.
To modify the existing engine and increase the horsepower, consider removing the speed governor; this allows the engine to double the speed beyond its initially designed handle. However, doing this means replacing certain parts to handle the rate, such as the flywheel. Keep in mind that the flywheel found in most mowers is made of cast iron and typically weighs around 12 to 15 pounds, making it highly susceptible to fractures caused by stress.
Also, if you remove the speed governor, you might want to take it off entirely, which means removing the oil pan and throttle. Once that is done, you’ll have to use a bolt, nut, washer, and rubber O-ring to seal the hole. Another option would be removing the existing engine and replacing it with a new one which is safer but more expensive.
The 5 Rules in Lawn Mower Racing
Although lawn mower racing may sound like a fun activity at first, it can get quite dangerous since most racing lawn mowers are modified to handle more incredible speed than what normal lawn mowers are designed to. This is why there are rules for the sport.
According to the US lawn mower racing constitution, there are several rules governing lawn mower races. The purpose of these rules is to guarantee safety for everyone. For example, modification is allowed under certain circumstances as long as it does not pose a severe danger to the racers and community.
The US Lawn Mower Racing Association (USLMRA) has an official guidebook with the general lawn mower racing rules. They are divided into sub-categories and include:
1. Driver Eligibility
A reckless and unqualified lawn mower driver could spell danger for the driver and people watching the race.
2. Mower Requirement
As with racing cars, the mowers need to be in good condition to ensure the safety of the drivers and those watching.
3. Technical Inspection
The engines and other mechanical aspects of the machine need to be in perfect condition for racing. This is to avoid any harm coming to the drivers and watchers.
4. Mower Eligibility
5. Safety Equipment for the Driver
The drivers in the lawn mower races need to ensure their safety during the races, which is why these rules exist:
Why Do People Participate in Lawn Mower Races?
To beginners or people looking in from outside, lawn mower racing may look like a joke. This sport/activity has been around for decades and for good reasons.
For starters, lawn mower racing brings the community together since most sports are community-based. Not many races do this since most of them tend to be regional or international. The availability of lawn mowers to most households is what makes this possible.
Along with bringing the community together, most lawn mower races are known for helping their members repair and build their lawn mowers. They use their knowledge in the machines to help rookies who have no idea how to go about the mechanical repair and improvement of their lawn mower. Not only does it help in creating a tighter bond among the community members, but it also equips the younger generation with relevant mechanical skills.
During lawn mower races, the competitors bring out their lawn mowers and parade them and may help people looking to buy a lawn mower with the much-needed exposure on which lawn mower is the best. Lawn mower companies sometimes attend these races, and members can get lawn mowers at a lower subsidized price.
The best part about it is that anyone can participate as long as they meet the eligibility criteria.
Lawn mowers and racing are two terms that don’t seem like they are meant to go together, yet they do. The sport has been popular since 1963, and it’s not hard to see why. Not everyone can afford a racing car, but almost all households can afford a lawn mower and modify it for racing. This kind of accessibility is what makes it so popular.
Although most lawn mower races offer no cash, sponsorship, or awards to the winners, many people love engaging in this sport. It’s fun to ride a lawn mower on open ground and compete amongst friends.
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Featured Image Credit: magic-k, Pexels