24 Hours on a Mower Seat

Dixie Chopper's Eli Kean breaks world record for endurance mowing
by by Ron Hall
8/26/2014

As far as records go, the one set August 20 by Eli Kean in southwest Ohio was more of the endurance rather than the spectacular nature. Kean, the 26-year-old marketing manager for Dixie Chopper, mowed for 24 straight hours (taking time for just a few short breaks), making him, as far as anyone knows, the first person to do so.

Kean and Dixie Chopper, the Coatesville, Indiana-based mower manufacturer, undertook the effort for two reasons: 
  1. To promote Dixie Chopper's new XCaliber industrial mower, which will be showcased at the Green Industry Expo Oct. 23-24 in Louisville, Kentucky.
  2. To be recognized as a Guinness World Record holder. Barring some unforeseen technicality, Kean and Dixie Chopper appear to be a lock for the world record. 
But Kean's effort, once confirmed, wouldn't be the first world mowing record set this year.

Piers Ward of BBC TopGear Magazine this past March 8 drove a souped-up Honda lawn tractor (dubbed the "Mean Mower") 116.57 mph at Tarragona Spain. His machine featured a 1,000cc Honda motorcycle engine, a Morris Minor automobile steering rack, ATV wheels, a six-speed transmission and a special beefed-up suspension. To be recognized as a World Record holder it also had to cut grass, which it could at a (by comparison anyway) snail-like 15 mph.

Impressive? You bet. But can we describe Ward's Honda as a legitimate grass cutter?

Hardly.

By contrast, Kean used a true commercial mower, a prototype of the XCaliber. He began his endurance effort at noon on August 19 at the 2,000-acre Molly Caren Agricultural Center just outside of London, Ohio, and finished promptly at noon the next day.

"I feel fine except my back is a little sore," said Kean shortly after climbing from the mower's suspension seat and removing the kerchief that he was wearing the protect his face from the noon sun. 

As Kean stretched his legs and chatted with the media, two men in a late-model sedan drove up to the small tent that Dixie Chopper had erected at the site. The adjudicators made several notations on a form, the official Guinness World Record form, then slowly drove away almost certainly to get some sleep. Compensated by Dixie Chopper, the two local volunteers had spent the previous 24 hours making sure that Kean continued mowing day and night.

"They kind of drove from one area to another while I was mowing," said Kean, who conceded that cutting the grass at the site turned out to be a tougher job than he had anticipated. Indeed, anyone driving busy U.S. 40 that marking the Centers northern border could easily mistake the huge grassy area as a pasture.

"The area is basically a parking lot," said Kean. "In some areas the grass is about 12 inches high and the property is kind of bumpy."

Kean mowed through the pitch-dark night and pre-dawn hours, relying on a LED light kit. Dixie Chopper offers light kits, but not this particular one-not yet anway. 

"I took a 5-hour ENERGY drink at about 11 p.m. or 1 a.m., and I had some Gatorade. But I think it had more of a placebo effect than anything else," he said, adding that he spent much of the night listening to Christian-inspired music and other favorite tunes on his Pandora account. Sometime during the pre-dawn hours he was forced to don a rain suit when it rained softly for about an hour. "There was lightning in the sky all around me but it was way, way off," he added.

Kean is believed to have mowed just north of 100 acres of grass. The official number of acres he mowed was still being calculated via a survey as this was written. Turf magazine will let you know as soon as it is available.

Shortly after Kean stepped down from mower's suspension seat and had one of the boxed lunches that a caterer had delivered to the small Dixie Chopper tent, his three-person support team loaded the XCaliber mower into an enclosed trailer and they headed back to Indiana.

The mower model, powered by a 99cc Kawasaki engine, that Kean used was a prototype of the new XCaliber that will debut at the 2014 GIE in Louisville. That model will offer features and cosmetic touches not found on the mower that Kean used in his 24-hour mow.

Jacobsen, a Textron, Inc. company, acquired Dixie Chopper in February 2014. The Indiana-based commercial mower manufacturer has long promoted itself as "the World's Fastest Lawn Mower," and has a rich history of pushing the boundaries of zero-turn mower performance since its founding in 1980.