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Spend liberally on safety gear, take the rider's course and check out as many bikes in person as you can to get a feel for what you might want. Then buy used and bank whatever's left.
You're absolutely correct! As for rides- in your "learning" curve you want to keep things simple. Don't listen to friends and be influenced by "bling". Pay between $2000-$3000 on the first ride. You will without doubt break parts off your first bike doing something stupid (like forgetting to put the kickstand down or your feet for that matter). Something like a mid 90s Honda Nighthawk, Suzuki Bandit 600, the dogged reliable Yamaha Seca II, if you live in the sticks and want fun in dirt look at the Suzuki DR650 or Honda XR650. All can be had for cheap and easy to insure.
Kirk
 

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Yeah, I know. I've had four Honda CB models, Yamaha Maxim X, Suzuki GS850 and a 69 Triumph Bonni (Rat bike) that combined didn't equal that.
 
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