Like with all my site visits, there can always be a hint of mystery. What will the machine look like? Will the operator be friendly and up for a chat? Will the weather be good and not be lashing it down? But the one issue that can sometimes test the patience and can lead you on a mystery tour is trying to find the site.
This trip to see a new Kobelco ED160 Blade Runner was no different. Up this road, turn left at the big tree, no wait, that doesn’t look right, maybe I should have asked that postman back in the previous village. It would be a hell of a lot worse if some very clever person had not invented satnav.
I got there eventually; to a site in Chippenham, Wiltshire. The sun was shining and looking at the surrounding fields and meadows gave you the feeling that its good to be alive. I met up with Molson’s Group marketing manager, James Dodkins. We planned to do a mini tour of the South West checking out some machines supplied by Molson. Here today in Wiltshire we had come to see this new Kobelco Blade Runner.
The operator was also its owner, the boss of the Leisure Ride Group, Ross Hemming and an experienced hand when it comes to operating the levers. Thankfully he was also very friendly and up for a good chat. He has been running his Gloucestershire-based company for fifteen years and before that he was involved in construction and plant hire. He is an expert when it comes to building equine facilities, such as training gallops, show-jumping arenas, racetracks and facility upgrades. Before he bought this Kobelco ED160 he ran Doosan, Bobcat, Hitachi and JCB.
I ask Ross what is the most important factor is when buying a machine. “Power,” he says. “It needs to have plenty of it and be able to push. I need a bulldozer blade on my machine for the work I do. Other 14 tonners I have looked at have not got the ability to push but this Kobelco does. With building arenas, I need to strip the topsoil, banking it around the sides, creating batters, putting in land drainage with everything built to a level base. Therefore, I have six-way blade and laser guidance on my Blade Runner. And it’s a case of so far, so good.”
This is the reason why Ross invested in his first Kobelco with Molson. It is because they build a machine that is perfect for his needs and has the correct type blade with a high drive track motor. This is a one man, one machine job and this machine will strip the topsoil, do the dig, do the cut and fill and all without putting a wheel mounted machine anywhere need it.
“It is a very comfortable machine,” adds Ross. “I like the fact that it is a bit higher up than other models, it feels narrow when you are sitting on it, the weight distribution is excellent even if you have a heavy object hanging off the front. It has great stability when you are unloading bales of blocks from the truck. The self-levelling on the blade is very good and I like the joysticks. It is very quiet, and I know this might not sound really important, but the radio quality is very good.”
Checking out the form
Ross’s machines don’t do heavy work all year round. The busy time is the summer months and it quietens off during the winter. They don’t rent them out during that period but give them a well-deserved rest.
Ross went to work with his Blade Runner and that gave me a good opportunity to take a closer look. The machine wasn’t in a parade ring but a dressage training ground. The ED160 Blade Runner combines the digging power of the popular Kobelco SK140SRLC-5 excavator and a six-way power and tilt dozer blade. The blade is similar in size and volume to the blade on a 100 HP dozer.
This digger can be used anywhere an excavator or bulldozer would be deployed, for example cutting forest roads and associated drainage work, or stripping vegetation prior to digging trenches and laying pipes. The ED160 Blade Runner offers powerful digging together with fine grading capabilities to provide a one-machine solution on job sites.Kobelco’s focus has always been on helping their customers get their job done efficiently, safely and economically. With this innovative machine they are ultimately delivering two powerful machines in one.
We start in the spacious cab. The cube design makes the most of straight lines, so the cab interior is 4% more spacious than previous models. Operating space literally spreads out before the operator. The 50 Pa airtightness keeps dust outside. Wide doors and ample head clearance mean smooth entry and exit The control box and safety lock lever tilt up at a larger angle, and the door handle height is positioned for easy cab entry and exit. Bluetooth is standard to allow connections with iPhones and other devices. Also, standard is an automatic air conditioner that maintains a comfortable interior environment all year round.
Further to the existing rear-view camera, a camera for the right side is fitted as standard for easy safety checks all-round the machine. The 6-way dozer blade has Power, Angle and Tilt capability (PAT) operated from the cab. With a single control lever, the blade can be angled 25 degrees to the left or right for dispensing earth and materials away from the operator’s path. The blade also tilts up on the left and right sides by 455 mm for slope grading, culverts and ditches. It also has a self-levelling and float control thumb button located on the joystick.
The curved shape of the crawler shoes improves manoeuvrability with good grip and gives crisp travel minimizing damage to ground surfaces. Maintenance work, daily checks, etc, can be done from ground level. The layout allows for easy access from the ground for many daily checks and regular maintenance tasks. I do like the easy pull out screen for the radiator cooling intake that allows easier cleaning.
Ross tells me that he likes the Kobelco because of its toughness, that should also equate to it holding good value over its working lifetime. This machine should easily clear the fences and score a perfect round.