These days I have truly mixed feelings about petrol powered tools. Clearly they are incompatible with our aspirations of a green future, in the same way as cars and aircraft, yet they persist (stubbornly so, you might say) to be the most effective and powerful means of getting a job done, whether that’s cutting down a tree, or in this case, whacking weeds.
That little caveat aside, let’s take a look at one of the better manufacturers of petrol strimmers; Ryobi, and by way of an example, the Ryobi RBC254SESO.
The Ryobi RBC254SESO is a lightweight petrol strimmer/brush cutter that benefits from being reliable (easy to start), lightweight (8.4kg), and having well designed controls. At less than £200, it’s also reasonably priced.
- Easy to operate choke and engine primer controls
- Easy to start, either with or without the optional electric starter module
- Super comfortable handle and throttle control lever
- Lightweight, and does not induce fatigue too soon
- Metal/plastic composite trimmer line (stronger than plastic alone)
- Not supplied with a fuel mixing bottle
- Instructions are a little unclear in places
Why Buy a Standalone Strimmer and Not a Multi Tool?
Having recently had a few bad experiences with garden multi tools, I decided to take things back to basics.
It probably isn’t a coincidence that a tool that includes a pruning saw and hedge cutter attachment on top of the basic strimmer/brush cutter, and yet costs exactly the same as another tool that doesn’t include the extras, probably isn’t going to be the greatest quality.
Having said that, this strimmer is compatible with Ryobi ‘Expand-it’ attachments, which are sold separately.
Unboxing and Assembly
Well if we start from the point of getting the thing out of the box and assembled, that took all of about 15 minutes in total. Granted I have a fair amount of experience with this sort of thing, but even so it was so straight forward I can’t imagine it taking a lot longer than that even for a novice.
The only contention in the assembly process is that the supplied instructions refer to both this model, and the slightly more advanced version with a bike style handle bar.
A couple of times I needed to check the model number to make sure I was reading an instruction that actually referred to this strimmer, but all in all not a massive issue.
After all if it saves Ryobi a few quid to print instructions common to several tools, I’m not going to grumble about it too much, especially if it means keeping the cost lower at my end.
As luck would have it the string trimmer head was supplied already fitted to the lower pole section, so I was able to get to work even more quickly.
To swap out the string trimmer for the brush cutter is a little more effort because it involves swapping over the cutting head as well as removing the lower portion of the safety guard.
This takes about 10 minutes once you’re familiar with what to do, which whilst not the end of the world, probably isn’t something you’ll want to do every time you use the tool if you can possibly avoid it.
Fueling and Starting Up
On some strimmers the controls are far from well designed, and knowing this I was pleasantly surprised to see that Ryobi’s designers have addressed these issues head on.
The priming bulb is within easy reach, unlike on some models where it is inconspicuously located underneath the engine… for reasons that continue to elude me.
The throttle lever forms part of the upper handle, and I’m happy to say that the whole ensemble makes for a very comfortable experience for one’s throttling hand.
This is absolutely crucial when working for anything more than a few minutes, as the vibrations and weight coupled with the need to keep squeezing the throttle can quickly make things uncomfortable at the best of times.
Most notable of all, the choke control is an order of magnitude superior to most other strimmers. Rather than a pull out handle that is prone to breaking, in this case the choke is a simple 3 position mechanical switch. Much less fiddly, and much easier to see which position the choke is in
If there’s one thing that can make or break a two stroke engine, it’s how difficult it is to get it started.
Fueling this is as simple as any other strimmer, but it would have been useful if a fuel mixing bottle had been supplied.
It must be said, most strimmers are supplied with a mixing bottle as it’s pretty imperative to ensure you get the correct fuel to 2 stroke oil ratio correct. So for one not to be included here is a bit off in my opinion.
As mentioned above this machine is lightweight at only around 8kg . Nonetheless it comes with a shoulder harness to help spread the load, which is very welcome, especially when using it for a long period of time.
Priming the engine, setting the choke and pulling the starter works like clockwork every time, and this is something that cannot be overstated enough – the number of petrol tools on the market where this isn’t the case is actually quite incredible.
Time and time again I’ve encountered temperamental 2 strokes that either refuse to start, or else induce RSI in the forearm from trying to get them started.
So with the strimmer started and strapped on, it’s time to get to work.
This thing makes short work of more or less anything that gets in its way, even in string trimmer mode. I would probably only ever recommend using the brush cutter blade if you’ve got a serious amount of thick, woody stemmed weeds to remove.
Unlike a lot of strimmers the string line designed to fit this strimmer is a plastic line with a metal line woven into it.
This means trimmer line breaks occur far less frequently than they would with a conventional all-plastic line. I’ve used this several times now and not suffered a line break yet.
Optional Electric Start
If you’re cynical you might see it as a clever way to make you spend more money, if you’re a blind optimist then it’s a well received optional upgrade. Either way, the option exists to use an electric start module (sold separately) to get the strimmer going, rather than using the pull cord.
Personally I don’t have any use for this; this strimmer starts remarkably easily with one or two tugs on the pull cord, but for the less able bodied among us I could see it being a welcome feature.
Having said that, at nearly £100 for the privilege I would be inclined to think very carefully before spending half the price of the original tool for something that is arguably superfluous.
Having spent a fair bit of time using this strimmer and several others over the years, I can confidently say that this is certainly up there as one of the best, certainly for use at a casual domestic level.
Stihl will probably always sit at the top of the heap when it comes to overall quality and reliability, which is a big part of the reason why they continue to be the brand of choice for professional gardeners/landscapers. For everyone else however, I would recommend this strimmer, and indeed Ryobi strimmers in general.