I'd like to start off by saying thank you to all the senior members of this forum from whos experience I'd like to benefit in the near future, and I'm sorry for the really long thread! I'd also like to preface my comments by sharing with you that I am a medical resident and I get to see firsthand the dangers of motorcycle riding, so its something that I take very seriously, and would like to begin the sport the right way.
A little more about myself first, I'm a relatively short guy, 5'5 and weigh about 145lbs and am 27. I originally began considering getting a sport bike approximately 4 months ago. Work (80 plus hours a week) and my new wife kept me from doing so (not b/c she wouldn't allow me to get one, but more of wanting to spend time with her). We've just now settled into our new home, and I feel its the time to get one. I've had relatively little experience on a bike. I did make a newbie mistake early when I began considering bikes. This was prior to researching the issue at depth and reading many of things I have on this and other forum. My friend was looking to get rid of a 1997 Katana 600 with only 9000 miles on it, in extremely good shape (never dropped, rode relatively responsibly, regularly serviced) He said that if I wanted it, he'd give it to me for $3000. My thinking at that time was hey, I'll buy it, take the MSF course, and then start to learn on it. I rode it around the apartment complex that we used to live in and learned the most rudimentary mechanics/operation. I never took it out on the street. One month later I sold the bike for the same price to prepare for our move to our new home. Since that time I began researching more and more about bikes and come across this site and others. Almost all experienced riders recommended against getting a 600cc class race rep or otherwise sportbike. I have taken that warning seriously, and since then greatly revised my thinking. Therefore at the time I'm leaning most towards the Ninja 500R. Most say that this the ideal beginners bike. I have not ridden one to date, but am extremely curious about its performance/mechanics.
Honestly though, there are A LOT of varying opinions out there. Invariably whatever dealership I go to (and I always tell them that most ppl don't recommend 600cc race reps first) say that one would be fine on one of the new race rep 600s. If not one of the race reps, they then recommend either the Honda 600 F4i, Yamaha FZ6 or YZF600r, Katana 600, SV650S, or the Kawasaki ZZR600. They all tell me how they started on 600s and were fine. I also proceed to tell them what others have advised me and they dismiss bikes like the Ninja 250r/500r or the Buell blast as being way too underpowered "to get out of the way of other cars." I do understand that they are biased because there is financial incentive for them to sell the more expensive bike. But I have often spent hours with them personally, and most still say I'd be ok with a 600 "because I seem to be a responsible person." So this is why I am thankful to the many others out there who have presented the other side.
I've tried to read everything I can get my hands to get the most accurate picture on riding. The most recent book I read was Twist of the Wrist 2, by keith code. I have to say that this is an excellent book, though somewhat advanced for a begginer. However I do feel I have a rudimentary understanding of the forces involved in riding. The section on throttle control I felt was very good in providing an explanation on weight transfer and stability.
At this point, I'm looking for others' input as to what I've said so far, and i would like honest remarks on the following bikes all brand new, but as i've said, I'm almost 100% decided on the Kawasaki Ninja 500R, and then trading up once I've mastered it.
1. Yamaha YZF600R
2. Suzuki Katana 600
3. Kawasaki ZZR600
These three were just recently tested by Cycleworld's sportbike, and called the "B" Team. The article writers stated that the Katana is a good beginner bike due to its low HP and overall ridability. The YZF600R won that competition however not surprisingly.
However I'd like comments on the following as well:
4. Suzuki SV650S
5. Buell Lightning XB9S
Also, Suzuki has reintroduced its 500cc class, which I jsut saw the other day..looks very sharp and might be a good competitor for the Ninja 500R. Any comments on this bike would also be appreciated. I think I'm set for my MSF course!
Thanks for lending all the advice you guys have, and again sorry for the really long post!!