The self-propelled Toro Recycler 20339 marks a first for me. I can honestly say I’ve never assessed a lawnmower that didn’t exactly blow me away with its actual cutting but won me over with the convenience of its design. Although an absolute beast in terms of power, using the Recycler is like watching a bodybuilder who also happens to be a professional breakdancer. It’s as heavy, rugged and powerful any experienced landscaper expects a gas-powered mower to be. You just never expect something obviously optimized for strength to be so flexible or agile. What it lacks in capacity to handle certain environments ordinarily expected of a mower with its promising specs, it made up for by forcing me to ask, “Why aren’t more lawnmowers this size built this way?”
- Smartstow technology streamlines storage footprint by up to 70 percent
- Handles bumpy ground smoothly with 11-inch rear wheels
- Front-wheel drive powered by variable-speed transmission hits speeds up to 4 mph, engages or disengages manually with a single lever
- Three disposal options for clippings: mulch, bag or side-discharge trimmed grass
- Steel 22-inch Recycler deck
- Powerful Briggs & Stratton 190cc engine produces 7.25 horsepower, starts without a primer or choke
- Deck washout port
- Cutting heights range between one and four inches
- Full two-year warranty coverage
- Guaranteed to start on the first or second pull every time for three years, or Toro will repair it on their dime
There’s a necessary consideration for balance that has to accompany the blueprint for any outstanding lawnmower. Think about the burly physique of an Olympic weightlifter or elite NFL offensive lineman. How productively could anyone utilize that much muscle if it were situated on the frame of a typical high school cheerleader? That’s a big reason I can forgive the Toro Recycler 20339’s nearly 80-pound body: that steel deck provides an appropriately fortified foundation for the 7.25 horsepower generated by its accompanying 190cc Briggs & Stratton engine. By the same token, those 11-inch rear wheels march over rugged terrain without missing a beat or getting hung up in ruts – as long as the general topography is mostly planar.
Make no mistake, the Recycler’s front-wheel drive lends it more maneuverability in tight quarters and around fences and other obstacles than one would think any mower with that much bulk and power has any right to exhibit. The trouble comes when dealing with arguably the one variable that compels countless consumers to shop for a self-propelled lawnmower in the first place: hills. I admire the variable-speed transmission’s potential to hit up to a 4 mph clip, a literal “extra mile” more than most other mowers in the Recycler’s class. Unfortunately, the front wheels lack the pulling power to save time and effort climbing steep inclines. On the contrary, the Toro Recycler 20339 has a reputation for stalling when progressing uphill.
Truth be told, you may end up disengaging self-propulsion entirely and simply converting your Recycler into a prohibitively heavy push mower.
Ease Of Use
The aforementioned issue with mowing uphill aside, the Toro Recycler 20339 is easier to use than one might expect any mower with its notable heft to be. Toro’s signature Smartstow system shaves 70 percent off the Recycler’s storage footprint by reconfiguring its body for space-saving upright storage. Indeed, this thing might as well be a Transformer, for its remarkably adaptive metamorphosis when not in service. Then again, I found it curious that a mower whose design approach is so thoroughly geared toward flexibility lacks an adjustable handle. Really, what exactly would have prevented adding a collapsible piece that could have made an already fairly heavy mower more accommodating to a wider range of users?
I also have to admit, the Toro Recycler 20339 starts superbly. Pull-cord starters often deter less physically able owners, thanks to a potentially taxing degree of effort required just to rev their engines. In this case, the tremendously potent powerhouse fires up by yanking the cord with no more than a measly 10 pounds of force and no primer or choke to fiddle with. Pretty easy-going, for a machine that weighs not much less than some Olympic gymnasts.
Cut Quality & Options
Curiously, there isn’t much to extol about the Toro Recycler 20339’s cutting prowess. A 22-inch deck falls somewhere within a “standard” range among gas-powered mowers, but compared with a push mower of roughly equal specs, a self-propelled model with a path nearly two feet wide still saves a substantial volume of time and effort maintaining larger yards. At just about any cutting height within the Recycler’s range of settings between one and four inches, the combination of appreciably dense power driving its blade and a knack for lifting each blade of grass as tall as possible keeps its trimming quality unfailingly clean and even no matter how high or heavy the growth in front of it. When it comes to disposing of clippings, there’s no going wrong whether you choose to side-discharge, mulch or bag those leftover shards, although the deep deck was clearly conceived with optimal mulching performance in mind. There’s nothing patently mind-blowing about how the Toro Recycler 20339 carries out its one job, but I can’t imagine anything one could want this mower to do that it fails to deliver.
OK, except the “keep running smoothly uphill” thing.
The Smartstow system dramatically improves much more than the Toro Recycler 20339’s storage footprint. No design approach before it has done more to make accessing a mower’s blade as effortless as possible. If the handy deck washout port doesn’t sufficiently simplify thorough cleaning to your liking, the ease with which the Recycler transitions into a helpful upright posture will certainly have you looking back and laughing at every time you have ever kneeled, bent and twisted to wrestle an 80-pound lawnmower into an inverted or sideways position. Separating the oil and gas not only serves to minimize air and noise pollution but promotes a longer, stronger engine lifespan. For all other issues, Toro ups the ante on their two-year comprehensive warranty by throwing in three years of “Guaranteed to Start” protection obligating the manufacturer to eat the cost of fixing any mower that fails to start on the first or second attempt. There’s integrity, and then there’s Toro.
In terms of safety-oriented features, there isn’t much to note in the Toro Recycler 20339’s vitae that you wouldn’t see offered by any competing walk-behind mower. Should you need to kill the engine immediately, simply let go of the bail lever to shut down within about three seconds.
The question is, does the Toro Recycler 20339’s performance justify its not-inexpensive $369 price tag? For the most part, absolutely. If you favor self-propelled lawnmowers to more effectively manage a challenging landscape dominated by a sloped yard that makes motorized push mowers questionably efficient and potentially dangerous, the Recycler’s underpowered front-wheel drive’s frustrating habit of stalling while ascending steeper inclines loses points compared with equally or lower-priced rivals in its class. At the same time, there’s no denying the muscle its engine brings to the table, the user-friendly convenience of the Smartstow system, generally nimble handling or the substantially broad warranty protections Toro offers on top of impressive overall durability. As long as you don’t plan on too many trudging ascents up and across hills throughout a typical day of mowing, I doubt the Toro Recycler 20339 is a damn trustworthy workhorse with a value proposition not to be overlooked.
- Ingenious Smartstow design
- No shortage of power
- Effortless handling over uneven terrain
- Generous warranty
- Superbly close edging for a 22-inch deck
- Disappointingly weak front-wheel drive
- Struggles, tends to stall when mowing uphill
- Handle is not adjustable