Review: Lely RP 160 baler

By: Jaiden Drought

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The RP 160 opened up The baler’s low stature makes it ideal for hill work The RP 160 opened up
The Lely RP 160 baler in test mode The Lely RP 160 baler in test mode The Lely RP 160 baler in test mode
Ready for cleanout Cleanout’s easy with high lift, lightweight doors Ready for cleanout
The RP 160 baler is easy maintenance Easy access for daily maintenance The RP 160 baler is easy maintenance
The RP 160's rotor The aggressive rotor had no trouble gobbling the grass The RP 160's rotor
The cleaning rollers Cleaning rollers doing the job well The cleaning rollers

The thorough Jaiden Drought not only tested the Lely RP 160 baler but waited months to see how the bales turned out


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I tested the Lely RP 160 baler late last summer (and by a New Zealand summer, I mean no visible ponding on the paddock surface) on some short grass, jacked up on urea and freshly mown – all the things that keep a belt baler on its toes.

I threw in a full set of knives and an honest 1.35m bale size to really sort the men from the boys.

The baler handled this surprisingly well, but I wanted to delay writing the article until after I had fed the bales from this machine to determine what the quality and handling ability was like at the other end, and to give an all-round perspective.

You know what I mean: you either love the bales – they have held their shape, which makes unwrapping and feeding them out a breeze – or there is the other side of the equation where they look like spongy golf balls and all the cursing in the book rears its ugly head, with feedout time proving a war of attrition.

 

The Lely RP 160 working
The turnable contour wheels and large windrow roller take the rows with ease

Pickup and rotor

Classic, Master and Xtra are the three spec options available on these machines. This allows buyers to choose the level of sophistication they need. Pickup, knives, and in-cab controller are the main three points of difference between the base-spec Classic and top-spec Xtra.

The new Hybrid 2 camless pickup is the technical name. Our test machine was equipped with the 2.25m, although a 2.4m is available.

Key differences between our test machine and older models included thicker and longer tines, a larger coil to increase life in New Zealand’s often-rough baling conditions, and an adjusted tine angle.

If it’s getting too close to the ground due to the camless setup it folds back to protect the pickup without leaving any crop behind. Because the cam track has been thrown on the scrap heap, this has allowed for an additional tine bar to be added.

This takes the number to a total of five, with 64mm tine spacing, and also allows the pickup to be situated closer to the rotor, giving better crop flow.

Another great feature is the grunty crop flow roller at the front. This also allows a more consistent crop flow in heavy crops by pressing them as they enter the pickup and helping reduce the effect of wind in light fluffy crops.

 

Knives and dropfloor

Xtracut and Hydroflexcontrol are two brilliant features on the Lely RP 160 baler. I ran 17 knives through the bales (the maximum number) and the chop quality at feeding out was both exceptional and consistent.

Knives are hydraulically controlled from the cab in conjunction with the E-Link Pro controller. The Xtracut-specced balers have two sets of knife banks, so on our spec machine (17-knife model) you could chose eight (back set), nine (front set), or 17 (both sets). All are hydraulically protected from damage with rocks.

Hydroflexcontrol may be a bit of a mouthful to say, but what it does is simple and probably one of the standout features of this machine. Many operators who have had it in their previous or existing Lely balers will tell you it’s something they couldn’t do without.

It’s the anti-blockage system. The ‘flex’ essentially is rubber and spring mountings, which allow the drop floor to move under peak loads.

If the lump is too large or a foreign object or a wet lump trips the slip clutch, then the ‘hydro’ comes into play. This is the drop floor, which allows the blockage to pass.

All this is done from the cab on the controller/hydraulic lever. The knives are disengaged and re-engaged once the floor is back in the working position.

 

The easy-to-use E-Link Pro monitor

In-cab monitor

As these types of balers become increasingly high-capacity and high-tech, the trend is to keep up with the technology level in the tractors towing them. E-Link Pro is an easy functional monitor, which can only really be surpassed by ISOBUS.

The E-Link Pro has a nice bright display, which is clear and offers plenty of space for useful information about the baler. This not only includes bale tallies but also total time and bales per hour for each customer, so the driver and owner can extract the efficiency of the output.

One thing some operators might find strange is the lack of a status bar for left and right filling of the bale chamber. However, this is available on the largest balers in the range, and filling the chamber based on the movement of the belts is something most drivers of this type of high-capacity machine are accustomed to.

It seems odd that it hasn’t been included despite the space available on the main operating screen.

 

Chamber and netting

There are many different theories about single, double, triple, or quadruple belt balers. I’m not getting into the argument of which one is best (although I personally like the four-belt design to drive).

In short grass, the Lely doesn’t seem to be as erratic as others. Although there are more gaps for grass to get in, it also means rubbish material and build up chucked out by the Lely’s aggressive cleaning rollers result in trouble-free baling.

The four endless belts are a combination of synthetic material and rubber layers. This allows the perfect balance between grip, strength, and bale pressure.

Speaking of bale density, as you can tell from the photos, these are well-formed, tight bales. Given the crop conditions, this is impressive but many Lely operators will be familiar with this.

This is partly achieved by the belt tension but starts right from when a new bale is formed. Two rollers above the feed system allow the new bale to be quickly formed with the large external CPS (constant pressure system) exerting pressure on the crop right from the core of the bale.

The well-proven net-wrapping system runs a core lock to stop the net roll spinning. There is a brake disc system and a powered feed system where the net feeds between a steel and rubber roller.

This new series of balers also has the ELS (easy loading system), where the new net roll is simply tipped backwards with the storage cradle. It does make changing the net in the field easier, but you must still lug the roll up in the first place. To be fair, it does stop you from getting covered in dust, which is a bonus.

 

The chamber
The bale easily leaves the chamber with plenty of room

The bottom line

There are probably three real options when looking for a high-capacity variable chamber baler – this one and two other slightly different shades of green.

If you look at some of the bale count totals on Welger/Lely machines, I’m sure you will find a token ‘just run in at 80,000 bales’. Given the technology and heritage of these machines, that statement may well be ambitious but probably isn’t rubbish.

 

HITS

E-Link Pro monitor is bright, easy to read, and practical

to operate

Low chain oil container makes filling easy

Clustered grease points

again make daily maintenance a breeze

Aggressive drive/cleaning rollers and the four belt system handled the short green grass well

Compact nimble machine

Camless pickup hugged the ground and cleaned up the swath very well

Three knife options: 8, 9,

or all 17

Hydroflex drop floor system cleverly allows the crop to smoothly flow through to

the chamber

Easy net roll change thanks to the clever front tipping cradle

 

MISSES

The absence of bale shape indicators. However, these are available as an option.

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