I bought a 94 cbr600f2 in may 2005 and I love it. No prior experience and my first manual. 600cc is the highest I would recommend as any starter bike without any experience. I took my time and the best way to practice, IMO, is to not get cocky and don't get over confident. I was going to buy an older 500cc honda interceptor but I found a great deal on the cbr600.
Take is slow, learn to use the clutch, take the motorcycle safety course, and avoid traffic for the first few weeks.
BTW, its not a matter of if you crash, just when. I just had an accident of hitting a deer at about 55mph on my bike, but I didn't fall or slide the bike. I came out unhurt and I'd say I was very very lucky.