So I decided to go the opposite of the cheap and easy way and bought the Kawasaki Euro/low bar kit from Z-Power
in the UK, though the way the Euro is going lately you may want to buy it from the W650 Shop
The kit comes with the Euro low bars, two new mirrors with longer stalks (because the bars are narrower), shorter throttle cables, a shorter clutch cable, a shorter front brake hose, two new clamps for the clutch cable and the four washers you need to replace the front brake hose. All the parts are Kawasaki genuine OEM parts - the part list with part numbers is on the Z-Power website above.
Today I set about installing it and while it took quite a bit longer than I thought it would, I'll put the conclusion here: It transforms the bike! The low bars make such a huge difference -- they are definitely the bars that the bike should have had from the factory. The feeling of control is much improved and you don't feel like a huge sail (as much) on the highway. It puts your body in the right position for carving up twisty roads and puts more weight on the front wheel. Good thing I'm getting new tires done next week as now I feel like I could get myself in trouble on this bike with the old stock tires.
Anyway, the following is a pictorial how-to for those who might want to install this kit themselves:
OK so the first step is to remove the gas tank. Undo the vacuum and fuel hoses (make sure the petcock is on ON or RES to avoid a gas shower), then undo the two 10mm bolts that hold the tank in place and remove it to the rear and up.
Set it somewhere soft. Don't drop it!
Next up is to start cleaning off the bars. First, remove the mirrors by undoing the 17mm nuts at the base and then unthreading the mirrors from their perches. Set them aside.
Now you can begin to remove the switch housings. Each switch housing has two Philips screws that screw in from the bottom. Remove those, then you can split the switch housings and remove them from the bars. Don't pull them apart too forcefully as you don't want to damage the wiring inside.
Also at this point you can remove the clutch perch and brake perch from the bars. There are two Allen screws on each, just remove them and set the removed halves aside with the bolts. You can let the levers hang off out of the way without disconnecting anything else.
Next up you need to disconnect the throttle cables. Once you've split the right side switch housing, you should disconnect the cables from the carbs. There is a clip which secures the cable ends to the carbs; disconnect that first.
Once the clip is disconnected, pull the cable ends clear of their retainers on the carbs and then you will have the freeplay necessary to disengage them from the carbs. Make a note as to which cable goes to which spot on the carbs and which spot on the throttle housing at the lever.
Once you get the ends clear at the carbs you have enough play to disengage them from the throttle grip. Pull them out (noting their routing) and then remove the throttle grip from the handlebar by sliding it off the end.
The left grip is simply glued onto the handlebar. Use a screwdriver to pry it up a bit and spray some WD40 down in between the grip and handlebar. This will help to dissolve the glue and lubricate the grip allowing you to twist it off.
Now the bars should be clear and you should undo the 4 10mm bolts that hold the bars onto the bike:
Once you get the bolts and clamps off, lift the bars off and set them aside.
Here's a comparison of the stock bars to the Euro bars in terms of width and pullback:
And here's a comparison in terms of rise:
Fit the new bars to the clamps, making sure to center them so that the splines are covered by the clamps. There is a punch mark on the bars that is supposed to align with the lower split line of the left clamp when installed:
When installing the clamps, note that they are not symmetrical. The end with the larger gap should face down. Tighten the top bolts on the clamps first, then the bottom bolts. They should be tightened to 18 ft-lbs.
Now you might as well deal with the throttle cables because this is the biggest pain in the ass in the kit. The issue is this: the throttle cables have 90-degree bends where they thread into the housing at the lever. On the original cables, one of these 90-degree bends has less rise than the other before the bend. On the new ones, they are both the same. This makes it impossible to thread both of them into the throttle housing due to the angle of the threads. So I wound up using one of the new cables and the old cable with the shorter rise. It was just not possible to use both of the new cables.
I found the way to do it was to get both of the 90-degree-bend pieces threaded into the throttle housing, then route the cables through to the carbs, get the cables hooked up to the carbs, then get the cables hooked up to the twist grip. Make sure the cable freeplay is maxed out so you have enough room to get the cables mounted all around. Once you get the cables mounted to the carbs and twistgrip, attach the clip at the carb end to secure the cables, then screw the throttle switch group back together (make sure to engage the projection on the switch housing to the hole in the bar) and adjust the throttle cable freeplay to 2-3mm.
Get the 90-degree-bend bits pointing where you want, then tighten the 14mm locknuts. The freeplay is adjusted by loosening the 10mm locknut and turning the 8mm adjuster. Clockwise makes the cable shorter, anticlockwise makes the cable longer. The top cable is the throttle opening cable. The bottom cable is the throttle closing cable.
You can now also re-mount the brake master cylinder to the bar even though the existing hose will now be ridiculously long. You'll be changing it before long. There is a punch mark on the bars that is to be aligned with the split line of the brake master cylinder clamp. Make sure you orient the clamp properly, so the marking that says "up" is facing up. The torque spec for those Allen bolts is 78 in.-lbs. Tighten the top one first, then the bottom one.
Now go over to the left side and attach the switch housing, again making sure to align the projection in the housing to the hole in the handlebars. Tighten up the 2 Philips screws.
Also go ahead and re-install the left grip. Spray a little WD40 inside it, then work it onto the bar until it touches the switch housing.
Now it's time to replace the clutch cable. Go to the left side and remove the sprocket cover.
First you need to remove the footpeg by removing the 14mm bolt and then pulling off the footpeg. The service manual tells you to remove the shift lever but it's not necessary. Instead, remove only the 10mm bolt from the shift lever and then you will be able to remove all the Allen bolts that secure the sprocket cover. Remove them and you can angle the sprocket cover out around the shifter. Keep track of which bolt goes where as some of them are different sizes!
Once you have the sprocket cover off you'll see this:
First go topside to the lever end and undo the 10mm nut for the clutch lever pivot (accessed from underneath the lever). Then push out the pivot pin and set both aside.
Now max out the clutch freeplay by pulling back the rubber cover over the freeplay adjuster and loosening the locknut, then screwing in the adjuster nut as far as possible.
Pull the clutch lever out to disengage it from its housing, then rotate it 90 degrees to disengage it from the cable end. Set the lever aside. Line up the slots on the freeplay adjuster and locknut and remove them from the cable. Pull the rubber cover off the end of the cable and keep all those items to transfer to the new cable.
Now go down to the clutch end and loosen the locknut all the way. You should now have enough freeplay to disengage that end of the cable from the actuator at the clutch end:
Once you disengage that, slide the cable forward so that it clears its bracket and you can slip the cable out of the bracket. At that point the only thing holding the cable in is the two clamps that clip the cable to the frame downtubes in front of the engine. Remove those and remove the old cable.
Putting in the new cable is basically the exact reverse of that process. Take the time to clean up the clutch pivot pin and lube it with some nice grease, I use Mobil 1 synthetic grease. Once you get it back together you can bolt the clutch perch back onto the bars. Then put the sprocket cover, shifter bolt and footpeg back on. Then adjust the clutch freeplay at the lever for 2-3mm.
Next step, brakes. Get yourself a catch pan and undo the 14mm bolt that secures the brake hose to the caliper. Pull it out and let the fluid drain.
Undo the 2 Philips screws on top of the fluid reservoir and remove the reservoir cap, the plastic bit and the rubber bit from inside. Let the fluid drain out until the reservoir is completely empty.
Once it's drained, undo the hose connection from the master cylinder, also 14mm. Promptly clean up any brake fluid that spills on any painted surface as brake fluid eats paint.
Now remove the 8mm bolt that holds the brake line onto the fork and then remove the brake line from the clip and rubber buffer:
Also, under the headlight there is a bracket held in place by 2 10mm bolts which helps to secure the brake hose. It'll be easier if you loosen this up (don't have to completely remove it)
Install the new hose routing it the same way as the old one. Use the new washers in the kit for the brake line banjo bolts on the master cylinder and caliper ends. Torque them to 25 ft-lbs. Insert the new hose into the bracket and the spring clip and tighten them back up.
Now you have to bleed the brake. You should know how to do this already. The bleeder screw is 10mm. Just take your time, it took me quite a lot of time to bleed it completely, probably since air was introduced to the master cylinder after removing the hose. But I needed a change of brake fluid anyway. Just keep bleeding until the lever feel returns to normal and until you don't get any more bubbles from the caliper or from that port in the bottom center of the brake reservoir. When you're satisfied that you've got all the air out, put the rubber and plastic bits back in, then put the cap back on.
Go back over everything and make sure you're done, then put the tank back on and take her for a test ride.
The end result:
EDIT: I didn't realize at the time that the Kawasaki wire clamps that secure the control wiring to the bars are not reusable. So after the fact I ordered some replacements which it turns out are still available from Kawasaki. The original bars use two clamps on each side but the new bars, owing to their narrower width, only use one on each side. So if doing this job, head over to your local Kawi dealer and order 2 of p/n 92037-1163 which is the small clamp for securing the wiring to the bars and order one of p/n 92037-1903 which is a somewhat larger clamp of the same design which secures the throttle cables and wiring to a hole in the frame on the left side under the gas tank. You'll have to cut the old one off to replace the throttle cables. Doesn't hurt to order a couple extra of each just to have around for future use.