Very good "bang for the buck".
Comfortable riding position for a sport bike.
Plenty of power and torque for its size and weight.
Very easy for beginners to learn on.
Fun for beginners and experienced riders alike.
Easy to ride at low speeds, but capable of 80 MPH without straining too hard.
4.8 gallon tank and 50+ MPG means plenty of range.
More like a small Sport/Tourer than a pure Sport bike.
I purchased this bike primarily for my fiance to learn on, but have enjoyed it myself as well. I also have a 2003 Kawasaki Concours, and it really feels like a small version of it. She is having a blast while learning to ride, and I am having a blast getting back to the roots of why I started riding, 20 years ago.
I did a lot of research before buying, and it came down to this bike, the Vulcan 500, which has a re-tuned version of the same engine, and the GS500F. We picked the EX500 because it offered the best power and handling, but was still reliable and economical to run.
She finds it to be very easy to ride, easier than the Buell Blast she took her BRC on. She is already taking corners like a pro, because the bike gives such confidence. I have taken it up on the highway and have done 85 so far, and it does that without effort. It is happiest at 70, but does 80 without complaint.
Fuel economy in mixed riding has averaged 50 MPG, with a high of 55 and a low of 43.
The engine has a lot of character, having a lumpy idle, letting you feel every power pulse up to about 5,000 RPM. It has plenty of power above 2,500 RPM, and will start out cleanly with minimal revs. Above 5,000, power builds steadily to 7,000, where it climbs more quickly, until it starts to taper off around 9,000, pulling well up to its 11,000 RPM red line.
Handling is what I call "honest." It does what you tell it to, when you tell it to, without drama. I'm still learning the nature of the bike, so I'm nowhere near its limits, but I understand that the stock springs needs to be resized for the rider's weight, for best handling. More on this can be found at ex-500.com. I'll be doing that when I feel that the bike needs it.
Planned mods are Pilot Activ tires, which last longer and still stick well, a Scottoiler to reduce chain wear, tubular handlebars for a standard riding position, and frame sliders to protect the bike in a fall. Fork and shock springs when I feel the need for them.
The only bike that really interest me as a future replacement for this one is the Ninja 650. I'll wait for resale to die down on that though.