Today saw someone riding a bicycle with his full, plastic shopping bags hanging beside the front wheel.

The bags were hitting the front wheel from time to time and I guess as the wheel was turning quite fast, it made a very certain, very typical, continuous sound when the spokes of the wheel interacted with the bag. It reminded me a lot of sharpening, polishing etc. You may have a fast spinning object and then hold another object against it, for example, a gem to cut or polish it.

Saying, however, "The spokes of the wheel polished the plastic bags" has a rather strange and funny ring. "Rubbing" might be ok, however, lacks noting the very fast motion in the above situation.

I feel like "to abrade" may be the closest approximations, however, I am unsure what would be most natural and precise. As always thanks in advance.

  • Is this the "pinging" sound made by the spokes as they were being plucked by the bags? Or is this the sound the bags made as they were being abraded by the spokes?
    – Jim
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 16:33
  • Abrading, by the way, has the connotation of being worn away. The bags were being abraded if they eventually developed a hole in them from the interaction.
    – Jim
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 16:35
  • @Jim, pinging does not sound right. Abraded - can one really use it? I haven't used the word before. To be honest, I really wondered, if the spokes would create a hole in the bags and the content spills out. Reading your comment makes it seem to be really the best verb in this situation.
    – Imago
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 16:37
  • 1
    Abrading isn't really about sound. It's about action. So saying, "The spokes of the wheel abrading the bags had a rather strange ring" is really saying that the sound of the spokes slowly making a hole in the bags was strange. But if you think the bags were in no danger of getting a hole or if you don't wish to emphasize the abrasive nature of the interaction you shouldn't use abraded. The sound of the spokes flicking against the bag... etc
    – Jim
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 16:45
  • The sound sounded abrasive - like it really may create a hole sooner or later.
    – Imago
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 16:51

2 Answers 2


To describe the sound you could use one of the following words or a combination of a few of them: scraping, scratching, screeching, squealing, grinding, abrasive noise.

Maybe not the ultimate answer, but on Internet I was not able to find an English translation of (the sound of) "schleifen" in a single word for this context.

BTW, being a Dutchman having grown up playing with bicycles, I think I recognize the situation and the sound you are describing; it could very well be the plastic bag against the side of the tyre producing the noise, rather than the bag against the spokes of the wheel.


'Chafing' might be appropriate. One of its meanings is: rubbing with frictional force (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/chafe).

This word may or may not exactly describe the sound you are referring to, but anyway the word itself sounds a bit like 'schleifen'!

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