Gadgets 1371

Published on December 29th, 2010 | by Greg


‘Tis The Season… For Pool Cleaning And Rollerblades?

Despite storms on the East Coast and wintry weather battering the Midwest, the Bay Area has been relatively mild recently. Not warm enough for us to want to swim outside or do much outdoors- too much rain- but during our holiday vacation we got a bit of a reprieve. And nothing helps you take off those Christmas meals like some exercise, in the pool or on the path.

We’ve tried a few pool items before and a few robots as well, but nothing like the Solar-Breeze Robotic Pool Skimmer. It’s a natural idea- take regular solar cells and use them to power a pool skimmer. Since sun and outdoor pools go hand in hand, and since no one really likes cleaning the surface of the water by hand, we were definitely interested in seeing how well the Solar-Breeze could keep up with the leaves, dirt, and bugs that inevitably collect.

It’s like a Roomba for your pool- or that’s the idea. And even more than a bit of tidying up, the robot can also release chlorine tablets. Rechargeable batteries get their juice from the sun, and power the clever paddlewheel that keeps the whole thing moving. If something gets stuck, which happens from time to time, the wheel reverses and hopefully dislodges the offending material. One downside is that the Solar-Breeze doesn’t clean the bottom of a pool. We did notice a few neat features- the automatic seeking of a sunny hotspot and the conservation of energy during overcast or cloudy conditions. And the unit can run around the clock- it isn’t super-efficient in it’s pathing, but that doesn’t matter so much. We found that it did in fact pick up most everything- bugs, leaves, hair- removing film and making our swims a bit more comfortable. We didn’t love emptying the unit, and it did require regular checking. But as an eco-friendly, time-saving gadget, the Solar-Breeze has our vote. Any pool owner can enjoy an easier time, but it’s definitely best for warm climates year-round. At $500, it’s a bit pricey, but can make up it’s cost over time by reducing energy usage. And it looks pretty nifty in your pool.

If it’s physical activity you want, but you’d prefer wheels with your exercise, consider the Rollerblade Fusion X5. They’ve come a long way since the early days of inline skating- more support, nicer looks, better wheels. The basic idea is the same, but the process was smoother than our writers remembered. And we still needed elbow and knee padding (and a helmet) to feel safe. But in just a few minutes of training we were swiftly moving around, feeling pretty secure. They still feel a bit heavy at first, but the built-in shock absorber in the heel meant we could take some drops and be OK. This model is a blend of soft shell and molded- mixing the strength and stability of the latter without quite being as bulky, hence the Fusion name. And this pair is meant more for folks with some experience, as they can really move and offer a lot of maneuverability- more advanced skaters loved these, while beginners were a bit overwhelmed by just how fast they started going with little effort.

They are definitely the most comfortable in-line skates that we’ve tried, and we kept them on for upwards of a couple of hours without feeling the need to take them off- unlike, say, our aging pair of LandRollers. This makes them perfect for commuting or trips around town, which makes sense as they are part of the ‘Urban’ collection. Rollerblades are generally rock-solid, and these were no exception, with an velcro strap that tightens nicely as well as laces and a buckle. It felt a bit much when putting them on, but helped immensely while skating. These offer a shorter frame than some we’ve seen, and though a bit on the expensive side, are a definite value considering the durability and construction. They also look pretty slick in black anthracite. Our only real concern is the six month warranty, which seems a bit short.

At $150, they are available widely online. Remember that skate sizing can vary a bit from shoes and so trying them on before buying or finding a retailer with a good return policy is important.

About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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