Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Helsinki, Finland
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If I may humbly propose something for the gearing: if you use a hub gear system, like the Shimano Nexus (7 or 8) or SRAM Spectro S7, or best of all (if you can afford it) a Rohloff Speedhub, then the number of chainrings in the front is a non-issue, as all you need is one chainring, and one cog in the rear. For people that need low gearing, you might have a 34T or 32T in the front, and then a 22T sprocket ("cog") on the geared hub, for a low starting gear.
If budget is a concern, go for the Shimano Nexus 7 which can be had together with the wheel it's built into, for as little as US$ 80 on eBay. Maybe even less, by now (the low price of the Nexus 7 is probably caused by the newer Nexus 8 which offers a larger gear ratio in addition to one more gear).
Gear hubs offer the advantage of requiring nearly no maintainance, and your wife would have to concentrate on switching gears with only one hand, unlike with deraileur systems.
By the way, this thread is very useful to me, too, as I have relatively short legs, and struggle with anything over 170 mm. I think 160 would be ideal for me.