Review: JCB JS130LC bladed excavator

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  • Earthmovers & Exacavators

It took him a while, but Ron Horner finally managed to get face-to-face with the JCB JS130LC bladed excavator he’d spied working on a motocross track in Queensland and met the man behind it all, Matt Window

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Matt Window overlooking his motocross circuit and much loved JCB

In my travels I have the opportunity to see some pretty rare machinery located both close and afar from my home town of Boonah in SE Qld.

I try to gain access to as many of those old machines as possible for many reasons, some being the rarity, the fact that they are still in working mode, finding out more about the guys who own them, the locations they are working in, comparison to the modern machines of today and because I’m an old fart who just loves the old gear similar to that of which I learned my trade in.

Other days I am fortunate to come across a great site with today’s more technologically advanced gear working in a location or project which may seem a bit foreign to most – such was the case with the JCB JS130LC excavator.

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The Gap Creek motocross track is off the Cunningham Highway and provides tracks for all ages and abilities, as well as camping and facilities

HISTORY

Along the Cunningham Highway in SE Qld (northern reaches of the Newell) I saw this little beauty during the construction of a motocross track located between Warwick and Ipswich. Always under heavy traffic along the highway whenever I passed, I just couldn’t find the timing or the right time to pull in and introduce myself; that is until a couple of weeks ago.

I introduced myself to the young bloke who owns, designed, built and runs the Gap Creek Moto, a purpose built motocross track designed to suit off road motorbike riders of all ages and skill levels.

Matt Window grew up on the Gold Coast and has held a passion for motocross riding since he was six years old and learned his skills on a similar track near Gatton. So passionate was he on the art of motocross that he competed at the top level before deciding it was the time to put something back into the sport that he loved.

With the Gatton track closed down he procured a large acreage block on the Cunningham Highway, well clear of neighbours, on a pristine creek bounded by river flats and mountains. This was a perfect location to build his motocross track and provide camping and facilities.

A multi-million dollar investment in land procurement, design fees, council approvals, main road access construction, buildings, electrical, plumbing and building of the track all fell on Windrow’s shoulders and for a young bloke has delivered the motocross community a first class facility.

It is here where we pick up the JCB, looking at its input into building the track and being an integral item of plant for the track’s upkeep and maintenance.

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Having been a motocross fan from the age of six, Matt Window decided to build his own track

WALKAROUND

Sitting in the paddock, beside a couple of bike jumps, is where I found the brand new-looking JCB JS130LC bladed excavator. Now I knew it wasn’t new because I have seen it along the section of highway for about two years but the condition is, well to say the least, like a new machine.

Panels, paint, glass, grease, cabin was all in perfect condition and with only 750 hours on the clock one could see why it was in such great condition. Window explained that the original clearing and bulk works was done with a dozer before the JCB turned up and, with the assistance of his skid steer loader, the smaller machines were responsible for the building pads, internal roads, drainage, track construction and upkeep.

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The JCB JS130LC excavator is used for ongoing maintenance of the motocross track

IN THE CAB

The cab of the little 13t JCB digger is simple and uncluttered. There is a comfortable seating arrangement, good clear vision over and through the safety hand rails and good vision to the all-important blade.

The control panel is simple and with the JCB-branded customisable and multi-functional monitor looking square at the operator it is as foolproof as it can get. It will even advise the operator of low oil and coolant levels on start up.

The operating control tower houses the joy sticks, the left hand side consul is clear of any clutter but the right hand side consul houses the electrical switches for lights, wipers, etc. and the blade control lever.

Top it off with a great little climate controlled air conditioner, optional rear and side mirrors and the rollover protection cab and you have an operator-friendly, easy to use little digger.

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Easy access to the filters and hydraulic pumps

ON THE JOB

Once in the operator’s seat and all revved up it is surprisingly smooth to operate and light in the controls. Some other machines of this size are a lot heavier in the operation of the joy sticks and can cause the operator a bit of muscle pain at the end of a long week – not so this one.

No heavy digging on test day but for what time we had this machine digs precisely, smoothly, directly and comfortably – a good mix.

Two-speed travel is pretty standard in comparable models, however I found the blade control lever not suited to me. This is not so much the fault of the design but more to do with a long-term injury I have carried for a while that makes it difficult to keep seated at that angle to competently attack the tasks in long spells.

Although vision is good out to the working end, I feel that JCB has missed the boat in the design of this particular blade. I consider it to be far too flat, not curved or extended on the bottom lip to create that "lift and cut" motion I find possible with other diggers of this size. JCB isn’t the only one that in my opinion has failed this test, there are plenty of failures out there and excavators have always been underestimated in terms of pushing power and capabilities.

They should all go to operator’s school where we could teach them a thing or two before making the costly mistakes of producing something inefficient.

That complaint aside there are plenty of things which are of great benefit in the JS130LC. Simultaneous tracking and excavating can be obtained via the intuitive multi-function operation, the auto idle assists in fuel reduction costs and the optimised hydraulic pump settings and advanced spool design operated from the control panel in the cabin is also a winner in my opinion.

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Two years old and still looks as good as new

UNDER THE HOOD

JCB with its optional scavenger filtration system has eliminated the requirement for a visual pre- cleaner bowl by using the suction from the cooling fan to remove heavier particles from the induction system.

I must say that removal of the visual pre cleaner bowl certainly compliments the streamlined and aesthetic design.

All JCBs are now fitted with the company’s own designed and built Dieselmax engines. This one runs the Dieselmax 444 TCA 74, St 111A, Tier 3 emissions compliant four-cylinder turbocharged intercooled diesel engine pushing out 100hp (75kW).

Two 124L/min variable displacement axial piston pumps feed the hydraulic system and a 220L fuel tank should see you get almost two days of solid operating.

All service points, barring engine oil checking, are accessible from the ground level, making life easy for everyone.

The undercarriage is quite well designed with a good strong box section housing the blade attachment and I particularly like the blade hydraulic ram shrouding – possibly the best I’ve seen.

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The Dieselmax turbo engine pushes out 100hp(75kW)

BOTTOM LINE

Under the guidance of the late Joseph Cyril Bamford, JCB has led the way in backhoe design, reliability and sales for many years so it has runs on the board when it comes to building and understanding diggers.

I was really impressed with the mini backhoe loader JCB 1CXT when I demonstrated it some years back but have yet to have the opportunity to spend any long hours or days on a JCB digger for a full "no holds barred" commentary.

This particular JS130LC excavator looks the goods (for the short time I was able to spend on it) but Window claims that it is a very good machine, completing all the days tasks without fail and has the economical Dieselmax engine to provide many years of service for this application.

Gap Creek Moto is the long-term home of this little beauty and with only 750 hours on the clock over the two years of operation it would appear that this machine may yet live its life out on the farm without having to do a real testing hard day’s work in its remaining life.

Now housing multiple segregated top quality moto-tracks to suit all skill levels and ages, this facility hosts hundreds upon hundreds of motocross riders each weekend who can caravan, camp, compete or ride to their heart’s content.

With the help from the JCB JS130LC excavator, Gap Creek Moto was born.

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