Disclosure: The Dry and Expert panniers reviewed here were originally supplied by Extrawheel during my testing of their prototype Voyager trailer. I then bought a pair of Twists on the strength of their performance, and use them to this day.
Crosso are a Polish manufacturer of waterproof drybags and bicycle panniers. I’ve used their panniers and drybags for 7 years, riding thousands of miles with them in a huge range of climates and conditions. While my recommendation comes with some caveats, I’ve become a big fan of their simplicity and functionality – not to mention their very affordable price-tags.
Their panniers come in four models; I’ll be reviewing the rear (large) versions of the ‘Dry’, ‘Twist’ and ‘Expert’ lines in this article.
The three models of Crosso rear pannier reviewed here have a lot in common, all being fully waterproof and sharing the same basic shape, attachment system, roll-top closure and reflective patches.
They’re some of the biggest-capacity waterproof panniers on the market, outdoing the more ubiquitous brands by a large margin at around 60 litres per pair, and costing less into the bargain. Though shipping costs push up the price for those outside Poland and especially outside the EU, they’re attractive to tourers who are looking for flexibility with available packing volume.
The main compartment of all the panniers is a simplistic drybag with hooks on it; there are no internal pockets or features, so it’s up to you to organise your gear within them. Some like this method, others prefer lots of inner pockets. I prefer simplicity, using smaller drybags inside the pannier for organisation and just-in-case additional waterproofing.
The lack of thorough English-language reviews puts many potential buyers off the idea of importing them – hence, in part, the existence of the detailed review you’re reading now that I’ve penned in the name of good and proper buying advice.
What’s the difference between Crosso Dry, Crosso Twist and Crosso Expert?
The most basic and cheapest of the range are the Dry panniers, constructed from wipe-clean PVC-coated fabric. They’re fully waterproof when the closure is rolled down properly, and as good as any other high-quality waterproof roll-top pannier in this respect.
However, cheaper construction materials inevitably lead to durability issues in the long run, and I’ve found that the Dry panniers are significantly more susceptible to abrasion-related damage than the Twist or Expert panniers. I’ve also encountered issues with the welded seams beginning to come slightly apart at the corners, although not until after many months of fully-loaded use, and this has never actually affected their usefulness.
The Twist panniers are identical to the Dry panniers except for the reverse-laminated Cordura fabric used in their construction, which makes them far more abrasion-resistant than the Dry panniers and makes them the better choice for the long haul if you can afford the extra cost.
It makes no difference whatsoever to their waterproofness. Some might speculate that when submerged the weave would eventually wick moisture through the rolled top faster than the PVC of the Dry panniers, but your bag would have to have been floating down a river for some time before this really became an issue.
Unlike the Dry panniers, the Twist panniers also feature a pair of horizontal cinch-straps with buckles on the rear-facing portion of the bags, which in theory allow the user to (carefully) strap suitable items to the outside of the bag. (I’ve never found a use for them myself.)
The Expert panniers are identical to the Twist panniers in almost every way, with the addition of a lid with a zipped mesh pocket on the underside, plus relevant webbing to allow it to be secured to the bag; and a removable roll-top pocket on the reverse of the bag (also available separately), secured by the same straps present on the Twist.
Together, these additions increase the overall capacity of a pair of panniers considerably above the already-generous capacity of the Dry and Twist models.
The lid allows for the panniers to be over-filled and fewer rolls of fabric to be used to close the bag while remaining rainproof. The reverse pockets allow for separation of items you may not want to keep in the main compartment, such as greasy rags and tools, or stoves and fuel.
The straps that attach the rear pockets are somewhat fiddly, however, particularly if the pockets themselves are not completely full, which leads to the contents being shaken about.
Having carried my worldly possessions along the Black Sea Coast of Turkey for two months in winter, during which rarely a day passed without rain, I can safely say that the Crosso Dry panniers are 100% waterproof – IF you close them correctly. (The same statement could be made, of course, for every decent quality roll-top drybag in existence.)
Three or ideally four rolls of fabric are necessary to achieve full waterproofing in prolonged rain, followed by folding the two buckles towards each other and clipping them together. Though a separate handle is fitted, the buckles themselves make for a good carry handle too.
Where the Crosso Dry panniers fall down in the waterproofing department is not in the closure but in the durability of the fabric over time. After a few months of being mounted, dismounted, dragged, dropped, leant up against things, and generally abused in the way that all gear is abused over the course of a long-term tour, they were in need of several repairs, particularly to the edge and corners of the bottom of the back face, where the fabric had been damaged by being caught between the rigid internal back-board and the external object in question.
(It’s for this reason that the more expensive Ortliebs, for example, have solid external reinforcement on these particular corners and edges.)
Puncture holes were also present in the fabric of the main part of the bag, and in several places the PVC coating had been scraped and grazed. This is all typical of a PVC waterproof pannier of this type and price, and no such pannier will stay waterproof forever. You’ll need to bring something to make repairs with, whether that’s a self-adhesive puncture patch*, something more specialised like McNett Tenacious Tape*, or good old Gaffa Tape.
The Crosso Twist and Crosso Expert panniers suffer far less from abrasion-related punctures to the fabric because of the Cordura material used in their construction, but are still susceptible to the bottom-rear-corner damage due to the vulnerability mentioned above. It’s worth being aware of this and avoiding dropping or dumping the bags on these corners, which is how the damage is done, though, again, this is something that’s easy enough to repair given a little handiwork and the supplies to do so.
While the lid of the Crosso Expert panniers adds a layer of rain protection to a very full pannier, I’ve never managed to cram enough stuff into mine for this to really come into play. In fact, I came to view the lid as a hindrance and eventually removed it, because of the time taken to open and close it and because of the various straps involved (which is why I’ve ended up keeping the Twists for long-term use).
In short; these panniers are waterproof until punctured – at which point, you can fix them. In this way they are the same as all waterproof panniers, regardless of price. The Drys are cheap but will need attention sooner, and the Twists and Experts are pricier but significantly more hard-wearing in the long run.
Rack Attachment & Compatibility
The attachment system used by all of the Crosso panniers is the same: two chunky metal hooks along the top edge of the rear of the pannier, and a single elasticated hook on the bottom.
While it might sound insecure, it isn’t: the tensioning strap is super-strong and the position of the bottom hook is suitably adjustable. Mine have come loose on only one or two occasions over the last 7 years, and only when riding on extremely challenging off-road terrain in Mongolia.
There’s no adjustment possible for the position of the top hooks. While this means that the fixtures can be made extremely strong by using metal rivets for attachment, you’ll need to be sure that they’re compatible with your racks or lowriders. I’ve used mine successfully with a Tubus Logo, a Blackburn TRX-1, and a variety of cheap, anonymous rear racks.
(For reference, the distance between the two hooks is 182mm with a couple of millimetres’ flexibility. Each hook is 16mm in width and will fit a rack with tubing of up to 14mm diameter.)
Because the hooks are metal and therefore fairly unforgiving, it’s worth protecting any rack tubing’s coating or paintwork from being damaged over time by movement and abrasion between the hooks and the tubing. Crosso apparently now supply protective patches for just this purpose.
Restriction of fore-aft movement of the panniers, accomplished on other panniers via a catch on the rear side of the pannier that fits over one of the vertical tubes of the rack, is not catered for by Crosso; instead you have to rely upon the position of the top hooks between the rack tubing and the limited range of movement allowed by the bottom hook. I’ve never found this an issue, though I have had to modify my Tubus Logo with the addition of some cable-ties between parts of the rear tubing to prevent the pannier from being pushed back too far back and falling off.
Not every rack has an appropriate point onto which to clip the bottom hook, so Crosso now supply a pair of adapters with their rear panniers which are designed to be mounted to the same bolt used to mount the rack itself to the bike’s rear dropouts. (Thanks to Panu in Finland for the photo.)
(This wasn’t available when I bought mine, so I angle-grinded the lower hooks into a taper in order to attach them to the rack that came with one of my touring bikes.)
In short, there are more adjustable mounting systems on the market, but Crosso’s mount is strong, durable and effective – as long as your racks are compatible. Check before buying.
The quality of these bags is generally very good – particularly the Cordura models, which give you a heck of a lot of fully-waterproofed capacity for a very reasonable sum of money. I’ve already mentioned the limited longevity of the PVC material used for the Crosso Dry panniers, so I’ll not repeat it here.
The Crosso panniers are a lower-budget option than the top-end German waterproof pannier brands, however, and this does show in some minor areas. Specifically, I’ve noticed that on every Crosso pannier I’ve owned (of every model), the plastic caps on the rear surface of the inside of the pannier have a habit of coming off.
These glued caps cover the heads of the rivets fastening the back-board to the attachment hooks, and while it’s not an issue from a structural point of view, it does leave nasty little metal rivet-heads exposed and waiting to do damage to the contents of the panniers. Like so many things on a bike tour, I solved the issue with a little Gaffa Tape. (Is there nothing it won’t fix?)
My only other quality-related gripe has to do with the removable rear pocket of the Expert model. Its plastic attachment hooks over a webbing strap sewn to the pannier, before being fastened with two additional straps round the pocket itself. On my panniers, this plastic attachment hook had a rather sharp edge to it, and via bumping and vibrations when in motion, this slowly cut into the webbing strap until after two months of (admittedly pretty hardcore) use in Outer Mongolia. The front straps would have retained the pocket, but there’s still room for improvement here – simply smoothing off the edges of the plastic hook would do it.
In short, the quality is as good as most waterproof panniers, and the few minor potential issues won’t unduly affect you when you’re actually on the road.
The Crosso Dry 60-litre rear panniers are for those on a budget: roll-top panniers with a big capacity and which will last well on a short trip if looked-after. They’ll need an increasing amount of attention as time goes on due to the damage-prone fabric.
The Crosso Twist 52-litre rear panniers are a happy medium: large-capacity fully-waterproof drybags for bikes, constructed of tough, abrasion-resistant fabric, and at a very good price, even with shipping on top.
The Crosso Expert 60-litre rear panniers are similar to the Twists but with bells and whistles, introducing a lid (of limited utility) and a handy rear pocket (also available separately to be used with the Twists).
All of these lines have matching front (small) pannier sets available, at 35 litres per pair for the Dry and Twist and 40 litres for the Expert. Crosso also manufacture drybags from the same lines, should you be looking for a rack-top bag to match.
The biggest selling point of the whole range is their capacity. I’ve toured for months using just a pair of Crosso Twist panniers and a handlebar bag, and found that this was all the capacity I needed for my long-term touring gear; infinitely preferable in my view to the ubiquitous but heavy and difficult-to-manoeuvre four-pannier setup.
In my view, the Twist panniers represent the best compromise of functionality, durability, capacity and value for money from the range of Crosso panniers I’ve used.
When I’m not touring, I can happily fit my weekly groceries into a pair of large Crosso Twists, leaving the tops unrolled if I need the additional space.
On the downside, the attachment system is more limited than some in terms of rack compatibility, and there’s a question mark over the build quality in some minor areas – though thankfully nothing mission-critical.
You’ll have to prepare for repairs in the long run, as with all waterproof panniers – but assuming you’re happy with this and with the other compromises detailed above, Crosso’s range is very good value for money and very much a pannier range to consider for an adventurous bicycle journey of any length.
Crosso’s panniers are available to order worldwide via their webstore, www.crosso.net. In the UK, they’re available to order direct from EMK Cycles in Weston-Super-Mare via their Amazon Storefront* and their eBay store*.