Buell Blast vs Ninja 250
Remember, these are opinions. Some people like Harley-Davidsons; others like Hayabusas. What you like is up to you.
The 250 is a far better motorcycle, although the Blast is a good beginner's bike.
Final thoughts: Nod goes to the 250. However... the Blast was designed specifically for beginning riders and excels in that role, MAYBE better than the 250. That could be argued well either way. I feel that the 250 can grow with a rider as their skill levels improve, where a Blast would not. Evidence of this is that there are numerous track ready 250s and a 250 racing series in California. Nothing like that for Blasts.
If ALL you want is a strictly beginning motorcycle, then either will serve you well. You'd be able to keep the 250 around longer than the Blast as your skills improve.
I am uniquely suited to answer this question, as I have a Ninja 250 and my wife has a Buell Blast. I have ridden both in various conditions and speeds and took my MSF on the Blast. We got to the MSF class without having found her a bike and took the class on the Blasts. Day by day, my wife grew more fond of the little Blast. She could get her feet flat on the ground with the lower seat option. Her hands could operate the controls. She was not stretched to reach the handlebars. The seat was comfy. We liked the fact it had no plastic to break when it tipped over (other than mirrors and turn signals and the like). We liked its simplicity - single cylinder, air cooled, no chain to maintain/lube, valves self-adjusting.
Anyway, here's the rundown: The Blast is a FUN bike. It has the same HP as the Ninja 250, but about twice the torque, and at half the RPM that the Ninja makes peak torque. That makes it very nice to ride around city streets. It has plenty of get up and go all the way to freeway speeds, and its top speed is supposedly about 98 mph, according to the Buell forum members. It has a funky sound and a smooth, responsive throttle (as long as you don't lug it). It's part Harley... noisy, kinda slow for the displacement, but it's comfortable and fun to look at (I think).
Yeah, it shakes a lot at idle, but it smooths out nicely at speed. It handles GREAT, and I was never worried about leaning it over at any time, during the class or now. Very flickable, although 80 pounds heavier than the Ninja. Phenomenal brakes: strong, progressive and predictable. The plastic bits shake around a lot off idle, but nothing has fallen off yet.
The Ninja is more refined and more of a screamer. Where the Buell gets it done with low-end grunt, the Ninja gets it done with rpm-derived horsepower. The Ninja's front fork is more springy and makes good hard stops a little more difficult to learn, but nothing a few days in the saddle can't cure. The Ninja is noticeably lighter - easier to push around, etc. But they feel the same weight while riding and handle pretty much the same (well, in other words). Good stability at speed and great manners in the turns.
A new Blast (before they were discontinued) cost about $1000 more than a new Ninja 250. Also, since the Blast has a bigger engine, insurance MAY cost more. Check before you buy.
"If you had to pick just one, which would you choose?"
The Ninja 250. It feels like a more complete bike, has more amenities, is just about as fast, and costs a fair bit less.
I've owned a Ninja 250 for about two weeks. My wife has a Blast that we've had for about 2 years. I've probably ridden the Blast 10 times (neither is my primary motorcycle).
The Blast was one of the numerous "short" bikes that I bought for my wife. I put about 1500-2000 miles on it riding it around the local area, but was somewhat disillusioned with it due to lack of lean angle and a low rpm limit. It is torquey enough that 1st gear is almost a waste. It was also the first bike that I scraped pegs all the way through a turn.
I would be bouncing off the rev limiter coming out of my driveway, which at the time was a REALLY short driveway. Leaning into any sort of extended turn (and rolling on the throttle) would result in hitting the rev limiter. On the positive side, the Blast is very much like the 250 in that you don't have to worry about spinning up the rear, which means you can lean into a turn and pretty much grab a hand full of throttle with no ill effects. As long as the entry speed isn't too high (or the rider wigs and stands it up) you have the turn made. GREAT traits for a beginner bike.
Of course, these are opinions from a Ninja 250 board. You will most certainly find different ones on a Buell board. One of our members recommends Bad Weather Bikers as the best Blast forum around. "Super good people, too."