The first thing that strikes you about Dungiven man, Seamus Doran is that he looks nowhere near his age.
Standing at a strong 6 foot 1, the town’s long time barber could easily pass for a man in his early sixties, when in fact he just turned 80 at Christmas.
Responsible for such fresh faced looks is his lifelong passion for cycling, something he enjoys just as much today as when he was a teenager.
Such is his love for cycling he’s known locally as “the bike man”, known for cycling since before almost anyone else in the area had race bikes.
At least three times a week he dons his lycra and hops on the saddle, taking in routes around Derry, Claudy and the Roe Valley. The gruelling Glenshane is one of his favourite routes, which he brushes off as a “steady push all the way up”.
Seamus has completed dozens of cycles, such as the Inishowen 100, through the Derry cycling club and the Roe Valley Cycling Club, of which he is a founding member.
Recalling the first charity cycle - helping raise funds for equipment for Altnagelvin Hospital - he says the quest for sponsorship was harder than the cycle. Back then, however, cycling wasn’t fashionable.
“It was seen as a silly method of transport, out of date,” says Seamus. “Not too many people were at it. You had to be seen out in the car or else the neighbours would think the higher purchase people had come and lifted it off you!”
Seamus did have a car, and even a motor bike, but he stayed loyal to his two-wheeled friend despite the jokes that often came his way.
‘Do you have that thing taxed?’ was one of many, but it never bothered Seamus.
Throughout the decades he’s raised some serious cash for charity, clocking up thousands of miles. He turned 80 last December and received a brand new carbon fibre bike as a birthday and Christmas present; a far cry from the modest Raleigh bike he first bought.
Seamus has also come a long way in his cycling fashion. Years ago, he would’ve clipped in his trousers and hopped on his bike, but now he stays on trend, showing off a new cycling jacket in neon green and white.
“I like cycling because it’s great exercise and it makes you feel good,” he says, revealing the Cycling Club paid tribute to him at Christmas with a special, bicycle themed cake. “Cycling keeps me young.”
Seamus has taken a few knocks on the bike, and only one bad accident when he was catapulted into a car windscreen in a collision on Dungiven Main Street, just yards from his home.
Nothing, however, has made him walk away.
Through all the punctures and tyre changes, cycling been a huge source of enjoyment for the chatty Dungiven gentleman. It has furnished him with lifelong friends such as Leo Kealey from Limavady and Wallace Donaghy from Dungiven.
Seamus also credits it with helping him through some sad and tough family times.
Asking him if it’s something he thinks he will always do, he says: “I have plenty of memories with cycling and I’ll do it for as long as I can.”
Summing it up best, though, is his wife Nancy, originally from Strabane, when she quips: “I’d have to nail him down to keep him from cycling!”