cycling groups

I am a member of a local club and participate in a couple of group rides a year. It is a good place for networking. If you are interested in getting a new piece of equipment and someone else in the club already has it, the more trusting members will let you take a test spin on it. One of the biggest advantages is that I almost never have to ride alone and the better riders make me push harder which helps me improve. Clubs are also usually a great source of knowledge. The only time that I go to my LBS is to pick up the odd part or two. The club I belong to has better bike mechanics than you'll find in an LBS.
I've been racing for various teams for many years. Most good sized clubs have something for everyone; racers, riders, etc. Investigate some of the local teams. It's a great way to network and get involved in your local cycling community. you'll learn bunches about riding and also be connected in with some good mechanically minded folks. Next thing ya know you'll be pinning on a number!