A motorcycle rider is freedom personified. With the exception of flying, nothing will ever stroke your ego and your pituitary gland at the same time like a motorcycle, but choosing one when you’re going to learn can be tricky. Sadly, you’ll probably have to choose one to learn on because of all the friends you have that own bikes, none of them will teach you on theirs. Since you have to start somewhere, and make a financial commitment in the process, it’s best that you understand the principals of the different bikes instead of taking the advice of your sister-in-law’s uncle that once knew a girl that dated a guy that swore by Vespa.
There are pros and cons to starting on a new bike, and the same is true of used bikes. If you keep in mind the mentality of the person that may have had it before you, a used sportbike is not as wise a purchase as a used cruiser. Sportbikes that are painted one solid color and have no factory decals may have been wrecked and repainted, so look for scratches on the forks since they are the most expensive part to replace and often get left by a person that can’t afford to repair the bike back to it’s original condition. Cruisers generaly aren’t bought new by agressive riders, so you’ll probably find them used with the factory tires on them and in very good mechanical condition, but either way it never hurts to have a bike shop look at it before you buy it. The only downside to starting on a new bike, aside from the cost, is that you may have to be the first to scratch it, but safety is more important that aesthetics.
Engine size is always the next concern, and too small is just as dangerous as too big. The ability to merge with traffic is important when you’re harder to see and easier to push around than the cars you’re sharing the road with. At the other end of the spectrum is the excess of power that can throw your machine out from under you if you’re not smoothe in your transition from clutch to throttle. The other thing to keep in mind is the fact that a 600cc sport bike is considerably faster than a 1300cc cruiser, so don’t confuse the size of the engine with the performance of the bike, and remember that a slow bike is slow, but a fast bike is only as fast as you make it.
As for brand, that’s really up to the individual, but is less important that how comfortable you feel on the bike. Take the time to sit on different brands and styles to see what feels best to you, but know that if you want to lean hard in your corners then you can’t safely have the look of a cruiser. Just the same as you couldn’t haul a tractor behind a corvette, you need to choose the right bike for the way you intend to ride, and get one that’s big enough to get you out of trouble and keep you from wanting more while at the same time being small enough to be controllable while you’re learning.