I am new to this forum, but since these threads relate to an issue I've grappled with a lot these past few months, I thought that I would add in my two cents and, to top it off, enliven this debate with a contrasting opinion.
I am 26 years old, new to the biking world as of the end of this season. I took riding lessons (mandatory here in Québec) and my exams at the end of the summer. I just bought my first bike a few weeks ago, a 1997 GSX-R750. So far, I have put 350km on this bike, my first, as I mentioned earlier, and loved every moment! Can't wait 'til next spring!
I can see the flaming is coming: "Another newbie's gonna splatter over some tree 'cause he was dumb enough to buy a racer as his first bike".
Well, let me offer a different perspective on that. First off, and let's get that clear, any bike can get you killed, even a 50HP "beginner" bike or a moped for that matter. Of course a racer is trickier proposition as far as actual riding is concerned: the riding position is cramped, it requires a lot of effort to steer, and isn't all that maneuverable in close quarters. And, of course, it's got power. But is that the real problem?
I heard Bob saying to another Newbie (sarcastically, I gather), that starting on a Gixxer 600 isn't any worse than a 750 of 1000. Really? I am affraid I don't share his views. See, there's a lot of hipe around the notion of horsepower and the fact that a 100 + HP bike as a first bike is a bad idea. I think there's more to it than just horsepower; has anybody here ever heard about the notion of torque?
See, having tried out a few 600 supersports before buying my bike, they don't feel any more powerful than the GS500s we rode in our biking classes. How could that be, you're gonna say? Well, it's because the 600 doesn't develop much more torque (force) than the GS500, in absolute numbers. The reason they have more HP is that they keep delivering that torque over a wider (higher) rev range. That basically means that for a 600 to deliver the 40 or so extra horses it holds over the GS500, you have to drive it like you would in a race (that means HARD, opening the throttle to the stop and letting the motor rip near the redline). And that's why people often say that you can tire out of a 600: they have no torque. You want the power, you got to redline the dam 600. When you ride at highway speeds, a single downshift is often times not enough to get decent passing power. Not so with a liter bike, which develops a lot of force starting as low as 4000 RPM. This one may bite you even low in the rev range.
Fact of the matter is TORQUE is what gets you in trouble. A R1 or Gixxer 1000 will wheelie right in your face at 5 000 RPM if you are not careful with the throttle. Not so with a 600 (it'll do that at 11,000, mind you, but then you were rippin'...). People think cruisers are less vicious machines than race replicas. Well I got news for them: a big cruiser will spin its rear wheel and spit you out in a turn if you are not careful with the throttle, because it develops as much if not more torque (remember, FORCE!) that even literbikes starting as low as 2500 or 3000 RPMs.
Bottom line, with the caveat that I have expressed (race replicase being less maneuverable, more initimidating to steer etc,), if you ride with any respect for the bike (meaning not whacking the throttle open and keeping the revs in the lower two thirds of the rev range), a Gixxer 750 or 600 is not a vicious beast that will bite you. The difference is the rider, much more than the bike.
I pretty much putter around on my 750 while learning to cope with traffic, maneuvers, the controls, the road conditions and the bike is a pussycat. I am not going to strech it until I feel comfortable dealing with those variables, because I'm affraid! And I know that will take quite some time. Not a problem, because I am already quite content being on a bike that I like, that's got the sound I want, the look I want, feels like I want it to feel. I don't need to ride it hard to appreciate it. I will do someday, but I am in no hurry.
And that brings me to my second argument: people on smaller bikes are often taking much more risks than a rider on a faster bike, because they think that the bike is less dangerous. So they push they envelope farther, ride faster, take greater risks. And then they fall. Any bike requires enormous care, because you are unprotected. Don't get fooled into thinking that a newbie bike is leass deadly.
A racer is not a good idea if you intend to ride it hard before actually being an experienced and skilled rider. But if you are able to refrain yourself and take it slowly, I can't see how it is any more dangerous than a Katana, a GS500 or a Ninja500e or SV650. Just be careful with the throttle and don't let the potential that lies in the machine lure you into thinking you are ready to handle it.
In any event, I'll be quite content sharing different views with you board members, while I know that this is a sensitive topic. Just thought a little debate couldn't hurt.