Kyrgyzstan’s roads tend to be in fairly rough shape, aside from the main routes linking key cities like Bishkek and Osh and around Lake Issyk-Kul.
Even some reasonably large roads aren’t properly paved. Some stretches may be made of dirt and in very poor condition.
The road coming from Kazakhstan via Kegan and down to Karakol fits this category as does the road that goes through Chaek to the south of Lake Song Kol.
Minor roads will be completely unpaved and vary between being quite ridable to bone-rattling with a surface like corrugated cardboard. What looks like a small road can turn out to be little more than a track and hard to find. Farm tracks to the side of a road may actually offer smoother riding than the road itself.
Taking all this into consideration, make sure you have wide tires and strong racks that will withstand plenty of bumps. Kyrgyzstan’s scenery is fantastic and you won’t want to cut your tour short because of a breakdown. Plan to take a little longer than usual to cover distances.
A large-scale road map covering all of Central Asia is generally fine for cycling around Kyrgyzstan. We used the Gizi Map of Central Asia at a scale of 1:1 750 000 but better Soviet maps are available in Bishkek as well as from the tourist information office in Karakol and the CBT office in Kochkor. These are somewhat expensive (150-200 Som each) but very helpful if you plan on taking lesser used roads to places like Lake Song Kol and into the mountains between Naryn and Jalal Abad. A compass is also worth packing.
If you are coming through Almaty, you can buy excellent 1:200 000 and 1:500 000 maps for 800 Tenge each from Firma Geo, Satpaev Akademik, 30 «B», near the corner with Manasa Street and not far from the Russian embassy. Tel: 3272 453435