MOUNTAIN bikers have been warned to take extra care after a man was left with life threatening injuries while riding in a popular forest.

The 52-year-old fell off his bike while riding in Hamsterley Forest, near Bishop Auckland, at about 4pm on Sunday.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) helped paramedics from the North East Ambulance Service and the man was placed in an induced coma and flown to James Cook University Hospital within 15 minutes.

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The man was in a critical condition when he arrived after suffering injuries to his head, arm and pelvis.

Recreation and Public Affairs Manager for the Forestry Commission in North-East England, Alex MacLennan, said the incident happened on the new K-Line trail which does not officially open until October and urged cyclists not to ride it until then while always being cautious with new trails they are not familiar with.

He said: “Of course, by taking some sensible precautions when out in the forest means the chances of you needing the assistance of the emergency services will be greatly reduced.

“Top of the list is always wear a helmet, make sure your bike is in good condition, ride within your ability and don’t take chances.

“Riding in a group is always sound advice and if you are riding on your own make sure someone knows where you are going and when to expect you back.”

He added: “As Hamsterley Forest is remote, you should make an effort to be self-sufficient and have your own small first aid kit, including a foil blanket, and an additional spare warm layer.

“Know your terrain and where to get to the nearest exit road and where you would be able to get mobile phone reception.

“Most of the forest is devoid of mobile coverage although even if you do not get reception, try 999 or 112 as this will access all networks.”

Mr MacLennan also praised GNAAS, which is publicly funded, for coming to the rescue.

Hundreds of mountain bikers raise thousands of pounds for the charity by taking part in the annual Hamsterley Beast, a fundraiser for the charity which is held in the forest.

The next fundraiser will be held on May 13, 2018.