Central Asia isn’t renowned for its political freedom.
Tourists shouldn’t notice much disruption to their travels in the same way that local citizens are monitored but rumours abound of rooms in popular hotels being bugged like in a Soviet spy novel.
You should have your papers handy for any police checks. Wandering around town without your passport is just asking for trouble. We were asked a handful of times for our documents. Sometimes it was a genuine check, other times the police merely wanted an excuse to stop us and ask about our tour, see our maps and look at our bikes.
In repressive Turkmenistan, we suspected the police were keeping an eye on our movements on one day, although they didn’t approach us. We were also tracked for a short time while cycling near the sensitive Kazakh-Chinese border.
None of this stopped us from cycling when and where we wanted to. If you really want to cycle the most remote roads you may need special permits and these can take a few weeks to issue. STANTours can advise on this and arrange any necessary paperwork. Particularly secret places like around the Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan will be completely off limits.