A good start would be a Yamaha Virago250 or the Kawasaki EX250 (depending on taste/desired riding). Both should fit her height.I am not a woman rider so I hope this is okay to post.
My wife has told me she is "interested" in learning to ride but she is.
1. Very short. I mean 4'11" short.
2. A little scared to learn how to shift.
3. A little scared by the nuts on the road. "She is right to be scared about them".
She also is a little angry that when we looked at bikes she might right several shops suggested that I just get a bike she would like to a passenger on. While I have no problem with her riding on my bike with me I found it a little.. Well rude.
An MSF course would be a good start but how will I know they will do more than throw her on a bike? Some are better than others. So what would you all suggest?
The Virago can get up to 70-80mph and a the EX250 can do, I think, a max speed of around 110mph. Both are light and small, so the intimidation factor is low.
Both bikes are cheap and I would definitely buy used. You can find both bikes for under 3 grand while still looking new.
The MSF class is a great start, but even than I would stick to parking lots and neighborhood roads for several days/weeks as the MSF class does not prepare you for traffic situations.
When I taught my wife to ride (5'4" 109lbs) I took here to a wide open and empty parking lot and went through a lot of the beginning drills that I learned at the AZ MSF class.
As far as dealing with saleholes, it is hit or miss. Especially when it comes to gear. It is a pain in the @ss to find good female gear that is in stock. Otherwise you get threatened with a restocking fee or an "it fits good enough" remark.
She didn't get much in the way of demeaning remarks, at least. I did have a kid (20-22yrs old) try to tell her the 600rr is the way to go as "it will take you longer to grow out of it"...which was followed by my wife giving the kid the "you're a retard stare".