Pros: Classic cruiser styling
Been around forever
Cons: Not a fan of the stock seat
Short first gear
When I was an 18 year old kid in the Navy, my first street bike experience was on a buddy's 1990 Vulcan 500. I rode his bike when he needed to borrow my car, and I was definitely the winner in that deal.
Fast forward 20 years, and I decided it was time to get back into motorcycling. I did some research, test rode some bikes, but when I threw my leg over the 1998 Vulcan 500, it was like putting on an old shoe. Unbelievably easy to ride, light enough to avoid most beginner mistakes (stoplight or maintenance drops), bulletproof engine that's very easy to work on, and plenty of zip for commutes and touring. I know many people say it's too buzzy for real touring, but if you ride the back roads instead of droning on the highway at 75 I think it performs extremely well and will keep up with your friends just fine.
My only complaints so far- my butt needs to do some shifting when I'm on the highway for over an hour, but I never notice this when I'm back-roading. Some people talk about their awesome gas mileage, but I only see 35 mpg or so. However, I only have a 5 mile commute, all side roads, stop-and-go, and I don't baby the throttle.
I know there are other bikes in this class that are really great, but at this price point, I highly recommend giving the Vulcan 500 a look.