I've been toying with the idea of joining competitive amateur (road) cycling for a while, but am unsure as to if the sport is right for me: I'm in very good shape and enjoy "basic" road cycling as well as weekend trips, but I have not joined any sort of cycling clubs because I don't feel like a Cyclist™.
I don't want to quit my day job-- I just want to have some competitive fun with other cyclists, and I don't know if "fun" in itself is a realistic expectation for official competitive events-- is this achievable, or is competitive cycling only for the most gung-ho?
What is the atmosphere like in most cycling clubs and at larger competitive events?-- are people in pelotons generally friendly, supportive, etc. or does everyone basically hope the others get hit by a bus so they end up winning? Do people e.g. go for a drink together afterwards? I don't know anyone who cycles as arduously as me, so I'd have to "find" some "cycling buddies", and am not sure how much of the "buddy" part I can expect.
As stated above, I have no intention of making a career of cycling, and I see little reason to spend e.g. $10,000 on a hobby. Some people enjoy spending that much on something they will ride at 10kph on Sundays, but I have neither the capacity nor the willingness to do so. However, at local (amateur) competitive rides, I have pretty much only seen ridiculously expensive carbon-fiber/aluminium bikes and lots of flashy Lycra. There is nothing stopping me from riding e.g. a 40-year-old bike at such a race, but it's also no fun to be struggling at the back of the pack when others are whisking along effortlessly. In the end, fitness trumps technology, but, basically, I'd have to be ridiculously fit to keep up in a pack of 5kg bikes with brifters on my 15kg down-tube 10-speed. How "good" should my setup be in order to enjoy such an event and easily stay with the pack?