Last week, I took the Motorcycle Safety Course Monday through Thursday, and I got my motorcycle license on Friday. The course is 20 hours with the majority of it riding. In Ohio it is subsidized by motorcycle license fees, and only costs students $25. The school provides classroom materials, helmets (but you can use your own) and motorcycles. Students must wear long pants, long sleeves, gloves and over the ankle shoes.
The facility I went to is sponsored by Honda, at a Honda warehouse, using Honda motorcycles. Most people got small dual sport bikes (motocross-style, but street legal with street tires) while smaller people got Rebels. The class starts from the very basics, assuming only that you can balance a bicycle. The first exercise is merely rocking the bike forward and back using the clutch. Later it advances to weaves, swerves and quick stops. The class is absolutely worth the time and money, and especially when most of the cost is subsidized.
I'm now motorcycle shopping, trying to figure out what I can get within budget. I would prefer a Standard or Universal Japanese Motorcycle, would settle for a cruiser (as long as it isn't a fake Harley) and don't want a crotch rocket or dirt bike. Based on looks alone, the Kawasaki W650 comes really close to perfection, but few were imported to the US, so not much chance of finding one within budget.
I don't want a fixer-upper yet, although I'll consider that later. The first 2 bikes I looked at had bad front brakes--probably a simple problem to fix, but one of them was bad enough that I was not willing to ride it--especially since the seller had talked about the work he'd done, including that brake.
The third was a 440 LTD--ample power, but way too small physically. The fourth is a possibility, a 1978 Kawasaki KZ 750 twin. Big enough, simple, and mechanically decent from what I could tell, and well within budget. I don't want to buy the first adequate bike I find without trying something else.