I can't advise on decent second hand bikes.. but you'll need something to cope with hills and be comfortable. also get used to riding in big crowds.. pairing up with someone is good or drafting other riders, hmm a moot point.. helps to conserve energy over long distance riding.
Charger is spot on, most of us ride fixed for commute, pub and winter training on a beater.. decent geared bike for the long hilly training rides.
lastly, within reason you should be out in all weathers.. this is the HTFU condition we talk endlessly about.. so you need to buy suitable clothing, see how you cope.. when you are ready send me a PM.
I ride with lots of different groups around the capital, some stronger than others. heading to either north downs, surrey hills, chilterns, epping, little switzerland, brighton, oxford or cambridge..
keep us posted
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