woman on motorcycle (Photo: Adam Hester; Getty Images)

When I learned to ride, serendipitous lessons about life and self-discovery shaped my journey.

Lesson 1 - Subvert stereotypes

As a bespectacled nerd of middle age and mild temperament, I never expected to grab life by the handlebars. But a brand-new learner's permit and pre-paid registration for a beginner's class gave me the fortitude to boldly go where I'd never gone before -- to the local Harley-Davidson showroom for a helmet and other protective gear.

Lesson 2 - Different strokes

Women start riding for different reasons. One friend reconnected with her husband when they learned together; they now enjoy a more blissful (and adventurous) union. Another woman who blogs about life as a scooter commuter says the wind in her face is more effective than coffee; it's a daily wake-up call reminding her she's alive.

Lesson 3 - Car wars

I learned to ride to preserve family harmony. In our four-driver household, only my husband had a motorcycle license, leaving me to argue with our two teenage daughters over the "family" car. My husband's company-owned vehicle was off limits and we couldn't ride the Vespa; but if Jaye, 19, and I obtained our motorcycle licenses, the scooter would be fair game.

Lesson 4 - Easy rider?

We took the DMV written test and earned our motorcycle learner's permits. Then we enrolled in an accelerated beginner's course that taught riding skills in one weekend. If we passed, we'd earn a DMV road-test waiver. From learner's permit to motorcycle license in under a week...sweet, right? How hard could it be?

Lesson 5 - Spend to save

Surprisingly hard and for good reason. Riding a motorcycle is inherently more risky than driving a car. Without seat belts or airbags, you can't rely on any automatically-deployed safety net in a crash. The best way to protect yourself is to anticipate and avoid accidents.

That's why it's critical to invest in expert training by certified professionals. Don't rely on family and friends to teach you. If you spend money on training and education, what you save down the road may be your life.