There is a lot of good advice out there about how to pick a motorcycle. Make sure it is right for your height, is in good condition, that kind of thing. I have very little to add to this-a mere addendum, really.
There are those among us who are commuters. These are riders who go for the sensible bike, ride with a sensible style and wear sensible gear. They are a kind of unsung hero among the rider community. Lone riders, who go to work and to school on machines that get good gas mileage at the cost of low maintenance. For cats like this, the choice is fairly easy. 250 or maybe 650cc. New or low miles. Boom.
But then there are the rest of us.
It is true that, no matter what, you should probably get a bike that is mechanically sound. Otherwise, you will learn the wretched truth about restoration. (Even now, there are those among you who hear this and know it to be true and yet still are going to take that plunge. And in so doing, you are making the right choice.)
But aside from this, you must allow for the drum beat of the non-rational. Some bikes call to the soul. Some bikes answer the will of the whim. Bikes that are condemned as decisevly uncomfortable by some are ridden by others for thousands of happy miles. The bike that would fit you in with your crew may deaden your soul. Your people may suggest. You may listen. But the choice has to be between you and fate.
My suggestion obviously reflects the romantic connection I have with my bike. Others among you may simply be looking for "something to learn on", or may have the material means to have more than one machine in your garages. This puts you a bit far from me, in a zone about which I can't really comment. But I do think that those who feel inexplicable connections to their crafts know what I am talking about.
Sure, this or that bike may be better on gas mileage. But you are going to travel thousands more needless miles just because you are on two wheels. After all the life calculus is done, ride the bike that makes you feel that you don't even deserve the pleasure, a bike that others can feel you loving as you walk away from it in the parking lot. After all: Life is meaningless. Bikes are fast.