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after exhaustive searching and whatnot(read: sitting on my ass reading forums) i think that a 500cc would be an ideal first bike for me

of the two that i know of, the gs500f and the ex500, which would be better? are they really that different?
 

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You will have to read a bit more for one is air cooled & the other is liquid cooled. So in a way they are different. YET you have the correct size & type of bike in mind.
 

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I'm in the exact same position as you. As far as I can tell, they are both good bikes, but the Ninja is a bit faster and handles a bit better. Personally, I like the GS500 more because of its looks and the comfort of the riding position. I'm looking for a daily commuter, so my needs may be different from yours. Here's a magazine article comparing the two:

http://www.kidanal.com/ninjagscomparo.pdf

Edit: personally. I prefer air cooled simply for ease of maintenance. Obviously, water cooled gives you a bit more power though. Interestingly, the article I linked says that the GS500 has the worse maintenance schedule (valve adjustments every 3,000 miles, etc.) so who knows.
 
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