Though the EX500 definitely looks pretty early '90s (even a brand new one does), it's a fine machine for someone like yourself. And they're dirt cheap if you get a used one. Don't count it out on looks alone. You need to see if there's any way you can score a ride on one sometime. That will be the ultimate test for you.
The SV650 puts down a LOT of power for a first street bike, though most of it is at the high end of the rev range. Same goes for the FZ6 and CBR600. We're talking more than 70 horsepower-- and in the case of the FZ6, nearly 100 horsepower! My current bike, a BMW K75, makes less than that (68 horsepower), but even with its heaviness to slow it down a bit, it can still get me into a heap of trouble if I'm not careful. I wouldn't have felt comfortable on the K75 if it were my first bike-- in fact, I felt a bit intimidated by it for a while after moving up from a 650cc single-cylinder cruiser (Suzuki LS650P "Savage") that made around 30 horsepower.
In addition to the EX500, see if you can score some seat time on a Buell Blast. If the original owner has taken care of it, this can be one extremely fun little bike that is easy to maintain in your own garage. Unfortunately, the Buell brand has been discontinued by Harley Davidson, but you should still be able to order factory-specific parts or get service from most Harley dealers, especially those that carried Buell bikes in the past.
My experience, since you asked:
I wanted an old UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle) for my first bike, so my parents got a great deal ($200) on an old Honda CB500T. Look it up, as it was pretty rare in North America. I think they only imported it for a couple of years (1975-1977). Of course, the bike needed some work, but cosmetically, it was a beaut. Unfortunately, the engine work was going to be pretty intense, and when I found we had to order even a simple carburetor rebuild kit from aftermarket sources (because the local Honda motorcycle shop couldn't source them from the factory), we knew getting this thing back on the road was going to be an expensive and very time-consuming process. We garaged the CB500T and gave up hope for a while.
I enrolled in the MSF Basic RiderCourse the summer before my senior year of high school and got licensed (ranked second in my class, just behind an old-timer who had taken the course to refresh his skills a little.) Then, being that I had been gainfully employed for a while and had a little cash saved up, the hunt began in earnest for a late-model starter bike. I was taken by the Honda Nighthawk 250s we used in the RiderCourse, thanks to their comfortable seating position and nimble handling, but was turned off by the drum brake on the front and claims that the bike would have a hard time handling my commutes on a 70 mph highway. Plus, dealer prices for even used-up old MSF Nighthawks were ridiculously high.
Perusing eBay one day, I was admiring a Suzuki GT380 triple for sale a few towns over. It looked like a screamer, with its small-displacement three-cylinder two-stroke engine and green-over-silver two-tone sparkle paint on the tank. But after my experience with the CB500T, I couldn't make myself go back to the unknown-- sure, it looked good cosmetically and had obviously been restored to factory appearance standards, but what if the engine's a complete turd like the old 500T's was? Not to mention, the bike was selling for something like $1,250-- which is an absolute fortune for a 1970s bike with a smoking two-stroke engine that would be illegal to even buy in some jurisdictions (thankfully not illegal in my home state, however!)
While I was drooling over the GT380 and talking myself out of it for all the reasons above, I noticed a link to another bike in a nearby town. It was a 1997 Suzuki LS650P Savage. I did a little research and found it was a dead simple bike: One cylinder, one carburetor, one spark plug, maintenance-free belt drive. Plus, it was easily capable of handling my 70 mph commute all day long if asked, without putting undue strain on the engine. Sounded great. Asking price was $2,000.
I e-mailed the owner and asked to come look at the bike. I loved it. It was a little short for me (I'm 6'3") but not so short as to restrict my movement in any way. I basically offered full price (like a lovesick buffoon) and took it home (in the back of a truck) the next day.
In ensuing months, I scraped together enough cash to buy a decent helmet and got a good leather jacket for Christmas. I started riding the bike all over the country. Wherever I had to go, if it was above 50 degrees outside and it wasn't raining, I rode the Zook, as I affectionately named her. I enjoyed the ride-- and the fuel economy of about 55 mpg was beating the pants off my 24 mpg Nissan pickup truck.
One day as I left work, I got too cocky and was leaving the parking lot a bit too fast. I was making a turn in the parking lot and felt my back wheel get a little loose, which cau