A new Virtual Reality installation in Bradford invites visitors to Yorkshire to experience the thrill of riding on open roads in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the Goma Cycling Club.
The installation is part of Welcome to Goma, an exhibition that runs from 21-29 September alongside the UCI Road world Championships. The venue is the Theatre in the Mill in Bradford's Centenary Square, moments from the start line of the Elite Women's Road Race on September 28th.
Audiences of all ages are invited to climb on to a customised static pedal bike, don a VR headset and join the peloton of Goma CC as they negotiate the streets of their home town, bunnyhopping obstacles including poverty, violence and the threat of volcanic eruptions for the joy of riding their bikes.
Welcome to Goma stems from a partnership between The Open Wheel, organisers of The West Riding Classic sportive, and Goma CC, which has built a community of keen cyclists in the capital of North Kivu province in the eastern DRC.
Since its founding in 2016, the cyclists of Goma CC have become a familiar sight on the city's streets popularising the joy of cycling in a region scarred in recent decades by sporadic violence, poverty and volcanic eruptions of nearby Mount Nyiragongo.
The Open Wheel has raised money for Goma CC from its annual sportive in the Yorkshire Dales and worked with the club to create the Bradford installation as a celebration of the universal appeal of cycling.
Alongside the VR Experience, the Welcome to Goma exhibition includes a 15-minute film about Goma CC cycling club along with photo portraits of the club members. The result is a self-portrait of the club principally created by members of Goma CC, using equipment provided by The Open Wheel and with some simple guidance provided via WhatsApp and email.
Michael McSherry, one of the three artists that make up The Open Wheel, said: "For me, this installation is about the transformative effect of cycling as an uplifting communal activity. Social engagement is in the DNA of the club.
"The members have changed their reality by forming themselves as a club. They have changed their perceptions of themselves, they have discovered new roles to play and in doing this they have changed in a small way the city's perception of itself.
"They have changed the perception of Goma both for other Congolese and for neighbouring Rwandans. Most importantly, they have found a way to be a big family, to have fun and create adventures."
The Open Wheel add, "Welcome to Goma is not just about cycling, or about Goma or the DRC. The working title for the piece was 'The Art of Participation' and, at its heart, the installation is about participating, taking part, getting involved and how participating can be transformative for individuals and for communities."
Welcome to Goma will be hosted by the Theatre in the Mill at its Centenary Square venue in Bradford city centre from September 21-29, coinciding with the UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire.
If you're in Yorkshire for the World Championships, don't miss it.