what kind of bike should I learn on. Lots of people recommend the Ninja 250 (or Honda Rebel 250). Those bikes are small and light and easy to manage, so they’re good for learning on, in fact I think they are both deliberately designed as trainers.
But a 250 has the disadvantage that it can’t really cruise at highway speeds. These bikes will go 70-80 mph, but they’re not designed to cruise long distances. The engine is just beating its little heart out, and the suspension isn’t designed for these speeds so it’s not fun, it’s not comfortable or even safe. If you plan to go more than 10 miles or so at a time on the freeway, you need at least 500cc.
The Ninja line of bikes are not sportbikes, they are -standards-. They look sporty, and to be fair they are pretty fast and handle pretty well, but -real- sportbikes are different. Strangely, the Ninja ZX (600 and 1000cc) ARE real sportbikes, but still called ‘Ninjas’. But we’re talking her about the 650r and its little brother the 500.
A 650 is bigger/heavier than a 250, but not that much. A person of normal size/strength could handle one of these bikes just fine. They would make a great bike to learn on. 650cc is NOT too powerful. Assuming you’re grown-up enough not to use every HP every second. You can handle the power, and it’s nice to have a little bit of power in reserve. The 650 is not just a good bike to learn on, it’s a good all-around motorcycle, which the 250 is not. You could take it on a long trip on a weekend, say camping or a tour through the mountains or something. The 250 is fine around town and the occasional weekend back-road trip.
My advice is that you want to learn on a used bike, maybe one with already some scrapes and bruises. Because you’re likely to be hard on your first bike. You might abuse the clutch, you might drop it once or twice before you get the hang of balancing. If you bought a 650, maybe 5-10 years old, you could sell it in a year or so for about what you paid for it, and buy your Dream Bike. And by that time you’ll know better what you want. Or you might just decide it’s all you need and decide to keep it for a few years. But a 250, as soon as you learn to ride you might feel underpowered and cramped.
I would stay at 650 or under for a first bike. A 1000 is definitely too big and heavy (unless it’s a cruiser–you could go bigger with a cruiser because they carry their weight so low). But a 650 is not considered a big bike these days. It’s a good all-around size.
Addition: Yes, I agree with the first guy that you should take the safety course. They teach these courses on 250s, but they’re held in parking lots and you never go more than 15-20 mph. A smaller bike is better if you never go above 20 mph. 8^) But the course is a good thing because it teaches you some indispensable safety habits, which will help to keep you alive while you learn to ride. LEARNING to ride is more dangerous than riding, I guess that’s no surprise. Half or more of all motorcycle accidents happen to riders with <1 year’s riding experience. Not to scare you or discourage you, just to show you how important safety considerations are when you’re just starting out. Personally I think these statistics are skewed by young men suffering from ‘testosterone poisoning’ who just have to start out on the hot sport bike and who do wheelies and other dumb stunts. I think if you just act like a grownup you’ll be fine. 8^)