The roads in Kazakhstan are among the best kept in the region.
Some, such as the road from Bishkek to Almaty, are in excellent shape: smooth asphalt with a wide shoulder. Others have a few cracks or bumps but are still generally okay with a dirt shoulder that’s surprisingly rideable. Main roads are frequently divided highways, giving vehicles plenty of room to go around you.
There are smaller routes and tracks up into the mountains but you’ll need a better map than the standard to find them. We used the Gizi Map of Central Asia that depicts south Kazakhstan at a scale of 1:1 750 000 but it only shows the main roads and a few side ones.
You can find stores in Almaty selling more detailed maps for areas across Central Asia. The maps are expensive but worth it if you plan on going off the beaten track at all. The best one is Firma Geo: Satpaev Akademik, 30 «B», Near the corner with Manasa Street, not far from Russian embassy. Telephone 3272 453435
Keep a close eye on the drivers while cycling. Driving is exploding in popularity and, with the recent gas and oil boom, more and more people can afford fast cars. Combine snazzy cars with uncrowded roads and a lack of enforcement and you get some pretty wild driving. We witnessed plenty of overtaking on the inside and people who would step on the gas only to slam on the brakes inches from the bumper of the next car.
Kazakhs are also not noted for their patience on the road. If you see a crazy driver coming towards you it’s best just to get out of the way. Even just crossing a driveway when the person behind the wheel wants to come through can elicit some annoyed gestures if you delay the driver for even a few seconds.