If you’d like to listen to me telling stories about that unique intersection between a) cycling really far, b) migrant solidarity and c) bugling on the beach, then — snakes alive! — you are in luck. I did my first ever guest spot on a podcast this week, chatting to Saoirse at Bikepacking Buds, a … Continue reading Podcast: Talking Thighs of Steel with Bikepacking Buds
If you don’t know how the world’s longest (and bestest) charity relay bike ride works, then here’s a quick and dirty guide on How to Play Thighs of Steel: 1. Don’t worry – you’re not cycling the whole thing, this is a relay. Pick one week that fills you with butterflies of excitement rather than … Continue reading How to play Thighs of Steel Joining the world’s longest charity relay bike ride
After more than 6,000km and 90,000m of climbing, Thighs of Steel is done and dusted for another year. Over the past 9 weeks, more than 90 cyclists have covered every single inch of asphalt between here and London. As part of the core team for 4 weeks this year, I have cycled 1,670 of those … Continue reading Thighs of Steel arrives in Athens, all together
Today is the final day of the epic seven week cycling relay fundraiser that is Thighs of Steel. At about 5pm, the latest peloton of steely thighed cyclists will sweep into Athens, hot, sweaty and exultant after an 85km day’s ride – the culmination of a journey that started 4,600km ago in London. The bike … Continue reading Thighs of Steel: A Community on Wheels
How do you sum up two weeks of doing almost nothing but cycling and refuelling? We’ve cycled from Ljubljana in Slovenia, through the hills of Croatia, the plains of Hungary and the free ice creams of Romania to Sofia in Bulgaria. That’s about 80 miles a day for 12 days, with one day off in … Continue reading Thighs of Steel: Ljubljana to Sofia
Lockdown was a bit of a piss-pot for all of us. But I wonder: can you think of one positive thing that came out of those months of loneliness? I can, just about. Lockdown, by taking away almost everything I’d ever taken for granted, gave me the time (so much time) and introspection (so much … Continue reading 5 Incredible Things I’ve Learned From 340 Days Of Adventure NUMBER FIVE WILL BLOW YOUR MIND! 🤯
2024 will be my first year without a major Thighs of Steel cycle-raising adventure since 2017. 2023 & 2022: Glasgow to Athens co-organiser 2021: Spell It Out record-breaking co-organiser 2020: Around The World lockdown cyclist 2019: London to Athens core team facilitator 2018: Ljubljana to Sofia cyclist 2017: Bugger all 2017, it’s fair to say, … Continue reading Gaping Abundance If an hour when you were a kid was worth tuppence (who gets bored on their summer holidays? Kids, that’s who), then an hour today is worth The Bank of England.
And a warm welcome from various trains running north and south along the east coast of Britain. Today’s gargantuan story is Part One of a selection of titbits from the fullness of the year just gone. For easy digestion, I’ve divided the fifty-two into sections, with half of each section coming today and the other … Continue reading 52 Things I Learned In 2023 (Part 1)
This is Alice Baddeley It’s 2021 and, in this photo, Alice has just arrived in Camber at the end of a long bike ride around Sussex, her home county. It wasn’t the bike ride she’d had planned for that summer, but you remember — that wasn’t really the summer for best laid plans, was it? … Continue reading The more I see, the more I realise that it’s just fantastic Don’t always think that you need to go abroad for a big adventure. Don’t underestimate the value of things on your doorstep. Don’t underestimate Britain.
Days Of Adventure 2023: 83 🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢⭕⭕⭕⭕⭕⭕⭕⭕⭕⭕⭕⭕⭕⭕⭕⭕⭕ What is this? Every year since 2021, I’ve tried to fill my days with at least a hundred adventures. ‘Adventure’ for me has a pretty low bar compared to the sorts of things that some people do. I’m not sailing across the Atlantic, like my friend Jess (and 200 … Continue reading Taking Adventure Out On The Town Keep your antenna up for moments you could explore. Shelter from the rain in a public museum, slow down to soak up a stone-grey street scene, swivel your lobes for a little light earwigging on the bus.
And a warm welcome from Highgate Woods, once part of the ancient Forest of Middlesex. This Forest was once described by Thomas Becket’s admin guy as a ‘vast forest, its copses dense with foliage concealing wild animals — stags, does, boars, and wild bulls’. Now it’s the dominion of the dog walkers of Muswell Hill, … Continue reading Could This Be A Moment? On Friday I counted seven moments. Seven, for the whole day.
And a warm welcome from the back of a 2005 Ford Transit called Beryl, doing 110kph into the Aosta Valley, an hour shy of Chamonix and our beds for the night (👋RK🙏). I left home on 10 July, eleven weeks ago, to ride Thighs of Steel 2023. This was the sixth time we’ve cycled to … Continue reading Together Through The Flood Barely a week before we cycled through, the region was hit by more than a year’s worth of rainfall in just 24 hours. At least 17 dead. Homes, farms and villages wrecked over an area of 730 square km.
And a warm welcome from Thessaloniki, named contemporaneously for the sister of Alexander the Great of Macedon, an etymology that hints at the long human history for culture and conflict at this crossroads of the world. But (in the words of The Tim Traveller) we’re not here to discuss any of that. Or maybe we … Continue reading A Midpoint 738km and 8,672m of climbing from Kotor to Thessaloniki in six and a half days
A warm welcome from the walled city of Lucca, a sacred grove of luminous space in Tuscany, Italy. Eight hundred years ago, a beloved domestic servant of Lucca was buried. Three centuries later, her body (definitely not her body) was exhumed, discovered miraculously undecomposed, and put on display for veneration. A hundred years more and … Continue reading Not A Miracle The extraordinary ordinary, or: how lucky we are when we work hard together on something worthwhile
The reason I’m not writing to you until now is that I’ve spent the day hammering through the zillions of pettifogging tasks that cram the hours before a lengthy departure from home. Tasks like these: As you may or may not have gathered, on Monday I leave for Glasgow, for four days’ final preparation before … Continue reading Enter The Packing Room Five items that wouldn’t make it onto most touring cyclists’ packing lists (let alone into their blessed packing room)
Happy Friday and welcome to Bournemouth, where I am writing — no, wait — that’s a lie. I’m actually dictating this to you through my phone because I have somehow injured my left wrist and it hurts to type. This injury was really bumming me out — until I re-read my old diaries. When this … Continue reading Proust’s Wrist Unlike Proust, rather than spend the whole of the rest of my life lying in bed tracing back to source this momentary mnemonic sensation, I searched my 2022 and 2021 digital diaries for the word ‘wrist’
It’s not every day that you meet a motorcycling electrician called Graham eating chips and gravy in the sunshine at a village tearoom in Northumberland. In fact, I’d say that it’s only ever happened to me once in my whole entire life. Just once. Last Sunday. I was about 470km into my 560km ride from … Continue reading Round Britain Twice: Graham Eating Chips And Gravy It’s then that I realise who we are: two men, strangers, telling each other how we fall apart. And how we might put ourselves back together again
And welcome to Egremont Castle, in the shade of the ruined keep, where Amber has freaked herself out playing hide and seek and started first crying for her mama, before shifting up through the gears of shouting, yelling, screaming and now finally shrieking. Amber’s mum walks up the steps towards me, wearing big shades and … Continue reading Round Britain Twice: From Egremont Castle The faded card leaves me thousands of miles richer and, daily it seems, on the edge of new life.
This morning, I decided to take that hoary self-help motto to heart: Do something for yourself first thing in the morning. You won’t get a chance later. I went for a run along the beach. About a kilometre in, I heard the heavy foot-slap and raspy breath of a long distance runner coming up fast … Continue reading ‘Hi, I’m Dave.’ No shame. Do something for yourself first thing in the morning. You won’t get a chance later.
Today’s story isn’t even a story. It’s a silly game, born of the ocean-inspired collision of three things floating on the waves in my mind. The number twenty-four. My two shelves’ worth of unread books. My inevitable mortality. (Or at least, a busy summer wherein I shall do little reading.) 1. The Number Twenty-Four This … Continue reading The Number Twenty-Four (And My Inevitable Mortality) There comes a point in every reader’s life when they realise that the number of books on one’s shelf vastly outnumbers the number of allotted hours for reading that remain on their own mortal shelf-life
Here’s a thing: I’ve been writing about the crisis of borders for ten years. What’s mad is that my first story on the topic, written after staying in an abandoned chemical factory in Calais, rings as true today as it did then: Do We Need Borders? The question is, of course, rhetorical. According to the … Continue reading 10 Years Of No Borders I’ve been writing about the crisis of borders for ten years. My first story on the topic, written after staying in an abandoned chemical factory in Calais, rings as true today as it did then: Do We Need Borders?
A friend once blew my mind with his story about a friend from the States who’d spent twenty-plus years picking up lost playing cards — you know, the ones you see littering the streets? Keep an eye out, you’ll see ‘em — until he completed a whole deck. Fifty-two unique cards, plus jokers. If that … Continue reading The Secret Society Of Lost Hats
Thanks to everyone who shared and messaged about last week’s story, The End Of Doomspreading — it’s already my sixth most-read edition of this newsletter. My drive is to help us develop more effective ways of connecting with people who start on the other side of an apparently deep divide and turn difficult conversations into … Continue reading Doomspreading In Saunas A previous iteration of David Charles would have felt threatened by this man’s speech and seen him as an enemy to be fought and defeated
Summer feels like a loooong time ago, eh? It’s dark outside and the windows are misted up with rain. Our tans have faded and even our steely thighs have turned to jelly. As all but the freshest or most cursory reader will know, I’m one of the infamous community of cyclists that make up Thighs … Continue reading Make Space For Others To Shine Last summer, our 93 cyclists not only rode 5,428km from Glasgow to Athens, but also raised a record-breaking (for us) £114,632 in solidarity with grassroots refugee projects through charity MASS Action.
A warm welcome from a squatted perch overlooking the ocean. Following on from last week’s appeal for healthy habitual alternatives to any form of knee-based self-care, I have started using a squatting desk. Inspired by a 2017 article by physical therapist Carrie Williamson, this is an almost certainly marketable term for ‘swapping my chair for … Continue reading How I Learned To Enjoy Wild Squats I’ve been amazed at what a difference this investment of 1 percent of my waking time has made to my flexibility.
I’d like to begin by saying thank you for having me. 2022 was a year of unprecedented growth for The David Charles Newsletter — there are 67 percent more of you here today than there were on this day a year ago. Hello! 👋 For this humble director of a one-person media empire, that’s pretty … Continue reading A Short Tour Of The Forgotten Elses AKA: 2022 shareholder review
MIGRATION The Nationality and Borders Act of 2022 was passed in April after the Commons rejected a series of amendments proposed by the Lords that would have protected compliance with the Refugee Convention. Heavy. In January, with the help of paradox, I tried to understand our part in all this, because we all have a … Continue reading 52 Things I Learned In 2022 We shall not cease from exploration so don’t ask us to compromise our beliefs because we still have NO IDEA what wonders we’re capable of. And other lessons from 2022
🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🔵🔵🔵🔵🔵🔵🔵🔵🔵🔵🔵🔵🔵 Friday 9 September I’d spent a pretty sleepless night trying to discourage the local dogs from chewing up our cyclists’ helmets that’d been left scattered around camp after a long day’s ride. We were all still feeling pretty tender from our brush with some kind of Montenegrin lake-bourne vomiting bug. Considering that, only two … Continue reading Intrinsic Adventure The Days of Adventure project has made damn sure I protect time for my priorities. It’s taken me outdoors when outdoors seemed a long way distant
September 17, 30 degree heat, Akropolis in sight. The culmination of seven months’ hard preparation and two months’ hard riding. It was a spectacular summer, filled to the brim with vivid experiences and vital friendships. But, as I reluctantly turned my handlebars back northwest, I felt pretty empty. So, as our ferry chugged inexorably across … Continue reading Winter Wins And in one year’s time I’ll be opening the freakin Palladium! (Or maybe I’ll just have sustainable momentum in the direction I want to travel)
Anxiety is a big reason that Thighs of Steel managed support 95 cyclists over 5,408km from Glasgow to Athens and raise over £110,000 for grassroots refugee projects. All thanks to good old anxiety. I don’t mean that metaphorically, mystically or even mythically. I mean that in a very concrete way. One tiny example Two weeks … Continue reading Anxiety Is An Energy Next time Sinjoro Maltrankvilo comes galloping along, maybe I can tip my hat, grit my teeth and welcome him with a stern handshake and a whiskey. My pardner’s back in town. What’s the job?
On Thursday 24 July 2014, 57 unwitting humans accidentally signed up for the first edition of what I called ‘the world’s very first adventurous comedy political mailing list thing’. After slightly refining my focus over the years, I now introduce myself like this: 👋 My name is David and I’m a writer, outdoor instructor and … Continue reading Happy Eight-And-A-Quarterth Birthday The David Charles Newsletter!
This is part of an accidental mini series on the psychological and ecological benefits of taking new perspectives on life, society, citizenship and the planet. The first part of the mini series looked at what I see as the organisational purpose of Thighs of Steel and took a new perspective to help me understand why … Continue reading Mycelial Contentment Fungi remind me that life is a simultaneous — and utterly entangled — act of personal exploration and collective creation
Last week I told you no lies. But perhaps I was sparing with the truth. I said that Thighs of Steel left Glasgow on 16 July and arrived in Athens on 17 September. Truth. I also said that 95 cyclists rode a cumulative 71,337km over the course of 49 days. Also truth. But there’s a … Continue reading Lies And The What What Now Now While livers and kidneys and stem cells do their surreptitious work, the rest of the world, friends, family and lovers from back home look on and ask of us the what what now now
Happy Friday! And greetings from Athens. It’s been quite the ride. Thighs of Steel, a rolling community of fundraising cyclists, left Glasgow on 16 July and arrived in Athens on 17 September. Over the course of 49 days, 95 cyclists rode a cumulative 71,337km and climbed up 757,975 metres of elevation, the equivalent of more … Continue reading Not A Charity Auction ‘Cycling together, reaching our destination and fundraising for refugees, brought everyone together and created a sense of intimacy that’s very difficult to find.’
Lorenzo looks me in the eye, finger tips pressed together, and delivers his final verdict: Seriously, there’s no point. Why would you even do that? Why? Greetings from the portico-shaded streets of Bologna, where I’ve spent the past week relaxing — and, in peak moments, getting really, really bored. Hence my appearance in the tourist … Continue reading Boredom & The World Heritage Site
The second century followers of the gnostic Carpocrates believed that human souls must go through every possible earthly experience before they are released and return to god’s side in heaven. For most ordinary people, this means reincarnation after reincarnation as they labour through tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich, poor, beggar, thief. But the Carpocratians tried … Continue reading Carpocratian Touring
I’ve spent the last six months working my ass off behind a computer screen to help make Thighs of Steel 2022 a sweat-n-spokes reality. Now it’s time for the easy bit: cycling 5,000km from Glasgow to Athens. SORRY WHAT?!? Oh yes. I’ll be part of the core team for six of the eight weeks: from … Continue reading How To Give Me Birthday Presents (And accidentally take positive action on something you really care about)
Day 1: Kings Lynn to Boston (66km) Resuming where I left off two years ago, today I rode from Kings Lynn to a canalside camp just the other side of the lovely market town of Boston. I’m dressed for Bournemouth, where it’s already summer, and today I froze in a biting northerly wind. Tomorrow I … Continue reading Round Britain IV: Cycling Diaries Kings Lynn to Ravenscar
🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢 🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪ ⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪ ⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪ ⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪ What is this? We are almost a third of the way through the year and, happily, I am almost a third of the way through my target of 100 Days Of Adventure for 2022. As it happens, 100 DOA is a low bar for this year, what with me spending … Continue reading 100 Days Of Adventure: Tercile Update And Round Britain IV
One of the most powerful tools in a Stoic’s mental toolbox is something I call the anxiety archive. Building your own anxiety archive is a semi-structured, reasonably objective process — a HAZMAT suit and a pair of forceps — that helps you safely hold your fears, raise them to the light, examine them from every … Continue reading Unlocking Your Anxiety Archive Learn the transformative mental health protocol pioneered by rap star Jay-Z
Welcome to the First Class carriage of the 9.10 from Barcelona to Paris. I wouldn’t normally travel First Class, but these were the cheapest seats by far (€49) — a fact abundantly evident in the crowded aisles of the carriage. There’s a family of five occupying the three seats ahead of me (fair play to … Continue reading The Travel Triangle Heat, Fuel and Air. Oh no, wait – that’s the fire triangle. So what’s the travel triangle?
This vegan flapjack almost caused a riot on the last Thighs of Steel London ‘club’ ride. Dense, nutritious, spicy and with a strong chocolate bite. What more could you want after a beasty climb? The base flapjack recipe is inspired by Andrew Hardwick. Ingredients 125g porridge oats 125g jumbo oats 150g vegan block 100g crystallised … Continue reading Thought For Food #4: Chocolate Ginger Thighs Flapjack
This story is coming to you live from the tramways, Thai eateries and new build blocks of Paris. Yes! For the first time since December 2019, more than 800 sleeps ago, I’m not in the United Kingdom. By my calculations, this is the longest period that I’ve spent inside the borders of the UK in … Continue reading Rudenoise Under the very silly tour guidance of The Tim Traveller, where else, of all the entrepots, bordellos and gin-joints of the world, would we end up but here.
Unfolding The Map Shelf: Northern Scotland, 2011 There’s something very relaxing about not being able to type. In my case, not being able to type means not being able to work, at least not in the hyper-productive sense. It means more slow time for things like organising one’s map shelf. (You do have a map … Continue reading Bygone Bicycles There’s something exquisite about unfolding the worn creases of a forgotten map and following, again, the inky lines where my pen once traced the turning of my wheels
There are only three more days of cycling left before we finish spelling out Refugees Welcome in the largest bike-powered GPS drawing the world has ever hypothetically seen. After 1,905km and 24,118m of climbing elevation, this is what we’ve got so far: If a picture speaks a thousand words, then each one of those letters … Continue reading Turkish Delight falls out of the sky If a picture speaks a thousand words, then each one of those letters yells a poem.
Days Cycling: 11 Distance Cycled: 842km Everests Climbed: 1.54 (13,601m) Tiramisús Devoured: 3 Guinness World Records Surpassed: 1 I can’t technically say that we’ve broken the world record because the ride isn’t over yet (nor the record verified), but Thighs of Steel have definitely surpassed the previous record and, with every day that passes, the … Continue reading How to break things: an update ‘I set out to fail,’ he said, ‘and I nearly ended up winning.’
We are now 4 days into our 27 day bike-powered GPS drawing of Refugees Welcome and it’s no coincidence that all the roads around here incorporate the word ‘Hill’. Copstone Hill, Cuckoo Hill, Polson Hill, Beech Hill Cross, North Hill Lane. (There’s also a Cockrattle Lane, but that’s a different story.) Since our departure from … Continue reading Admin or admiration? 4 days into our 27 day world record ride and it’s no coincidence that all the roads here incorporate the word ‘Hill’
On Monday I will hop onto a train and then into a car and travel down to St Austell for the beginning of the second longest bike ride of my life and the first that has required more than a few days’ planning. Spell It Out, a 2,400km world record-breaking ride across the south of … Continue reading ‘We identify ourselves as human beings’ If it passes without amendment, the Nationality and Borders Bill will put UK law in direct opposition to the 1951 Geneva Convention by criminalising people who arrive on these shores without a visa — even when they have a legitimate claim for asylum under international law.
Through the window, as I write, I can see rusty-coloured containers, rusty-coloured cranes and rusty-coloured clouds. We must be approaching Southampton Central. This week I’ve transitioned from bikes to trains, clocking up over thirteen hours on one or other of these coupled carriages, entertaining myself by reading books about Trainspotting and Breath, or estimating the … Continue reading Laughter lines My advice is nothing more than reassurance that the dream still fits the plan. The more people do this sort of thing, the more people do this sort of thing.
🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢 🟢🟢🟢⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪ ⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪ ⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪ What is this? I’ll begin this six-month, solstice update on a downbeat note. Earlier this week, I was scheduled to instruct my first Duke of Edinburgh Award Silver Expedition. I was very excited about this event, not only because I’d be working in the G.O.D. (Great Out Doors) with more experienced, … Continue reading 100 Days of Adventure: Solstice Update