This page was last updated November 28, 2011

AMF Hercules Bicycles

Made by Raleigh Industries Limited Nottingham, England

(Model Year 1969)

By 1969 many changes had been made concerning Hercules bicycles. Purchased by TI Raleigh in 1960 they were moving into Raleigh's "sell it anywhere" category. Not that that was really new to Hercules bicycles. Even before Raleigh controlled Hercules, Hercules had already been selling their bicycles to Montgomery Wards to sell in the United States as their Hercules Hawthorne bicycles. It could be said that Hawthorne was a more fitting brand to put on a fine bicycle than AMF was. But often bicycles of high quality are found with surprising names. And AMF was noted for high quality products. But still, seeing AMF, Made in England, and Hercules on the same bicycle seemed a bit strange to me. But then, even though seeing Hawthorne, Made in England, and Hercules on the same bicycle seemed perfectly normal to me, I would imagine there were those who thought that also was at least a bit strange. And, while we look back with a different perspective, there were probably concerns that, at least in the United States, customers would be more comfortable seeing a name they knew, like Montgomery Wards or AMF, than one they didn't know like Hercules. As famous as Hercules bicycles may have been elsewhere, in the United States it was one of the lesser recognized names when put next to Schwinn, Columbia, AMF, Hawthorne,  J. C. Higgins, or other domestic brands.

As AMF Hercules bicycles there were some changes made. Colors that may never have been offered before were now offered. And they began to look a lot more like a Raleigh then they had previously. Components that might not have been offered otherwise were now being put on these AMF Hercules bicycles. The one that I most noticed, next to the change from the distinctive Hercules chainguard to the ordinary chainguard, was the twist grip shifter by Sturmey Archer. The model that Sturmey Archer made in the 1960's was short lived. I have yet to hear anyone who wasn't selling it say anything good about it . If anyone who is not selling one one of those 1960's twist grip Sturmey Archer twist grip shifter has anything good to say about it, and not anonymously, you can email me at jvernooy@yahoo.com and I will change what I said about never hearing anything good about it. The twist grip shifters that Sturmey Archer makes today are easily as good, (or better), compared to those made by any of the other major companies that make bicycle gear shifting components.
AMF_Hercules_1969
That is a 1969 Super Deluxe AMF Hercules at left as seen in the 1969 catalog. It's about as close to the bicycle from 1960, shown in the images below it, as you get for a 1969 Hercules. But note the differences. The chainguard is the most obvious change. But look also at the brake levers. They are the Raleigh type as are the brake calipers. But the brake calipers are not so obviously different. Then the shifter. The catalog calls it a  "self adjusting" twist grip shifter. Bicycle owners and bicycle mechanics more often know it as "self un-adjusting". Some say it seldom works properly. But it is used on this bicycle instead of the flawless trigger lever. Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't mind having a 1969 AMF Hercules. If I could have afforded it at the time, when one was offered on Ebay, I would have bid on one that was the twin of the one in the 1969 AMF Hercules catalog. It was even the same color gold. Bicycles made in England by Raleigh have always been of excellent quality.  The differences that I mention are only small differences. But they are differences. And these changes may have been made even if Hercules had not merged with TI Raleigh.

The twist grip shifter was a change so it looked like a good idea. When offering a product in any market those who have to sell whatever it is want something new or improved to talk about. And as unique and stylish as that swept forward design chainguard was it tended to catch pant cuffs almost as effectively as the bare chain would. Sometimes the riders of these bicycles would use cuff clips just as they would have if the bicycle had no chainguard.

The number of spokes hadn't yet been economized upon. Even though it would have been cheaper to use all 36 spoke wheels the manufacturers used spoke numbers that reflected the difference in stress levels between front and rear wheels. The rear wheel has 40 spokes and the front wheel has 32 spokes, as is the case with the 1960 Hercules Hawthorne and probably all bicycles of this type until the 1970's. In the 1970's this changed. Raleigh manufactured bicycles changed to a standard of using 36 spokes in both the front and rear wheels. It obviously was an economical move as the weight distribution on a bicycle makes the 32x40 wheels much more sensible. I had grown up thinking that a three speed bicycle had to have 32 spokes in the front wheel and 40 spokes in the rear wheel and that it would never change.

They say that competition between companies causes a company to offer the best deal to the customer. That may be true. But does it cause a company to make available the very best product possible?

Wards' Hercules picture I don't think so. It seems to put some excellent designs forever in the past. Between the Hercules Hawthorne shown on the catalog page at left and the one just above that one you can see a running change. The place that the gear cable ran was changed because the pulley was changed from the top of the seat tube to the bottom because mine had been supplied with the more common, (and therefore probably less expensive), fulcrum clip that was made for 1 1/8 inch tubing instead of the 5/8 inch size as shown in thecatalog.               

Now back to picking on the AMF. The Hercules name that had for years been on the seat tube was replaced by the AMF triangular logo with, below it, three plastic chrome look wrap around stickers separating the letters A, M, and F. And the chainring had lost the "H"s, which in turn had lost the "Hercules" name that even earlier Hercules bicycles had  in their chainring. And in 1969 the frame was the less expensive diamond frame instead of the cantilever frame.



























The images above are an AMF Hercules 1969 and a 1960 Hercules Hawthorne. The purpose is entirely educational. No items are offered for sale on these pages, (and certainly not at 1960 or 1969 prices).




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