The rain finally left so I took the Versys out for a spin. I have close to 200 miles on it with the different handlebars.
I turned the bars up to where they would just clear the bodywork. I preferred the sweep in the previous position, but this is not too different. I used the rubber inner parts of some other bar-end weights to attach the stock Versys weights. It works fairly well, but I want to find weights or plugs with sliding metal couplings to more firmly attach the Kawasaki weights.
What is different? Two things stand out most in my mind. First, it feels as though I have a good steering damper installed. The steering is a little slower and heavier but still lighter than my other bikes. The front seems much more firmly planted in front of me. I felt the stock setup was nicely light but perhaps just a bit too much for my taste, especially when hitting rough pavement mid-lean. The lower handlebars make the Versys seem more like a 'normal' sportbike if you know what I mean.
Second and more important, I feel significantly more confident in the bike. I am used to steering with my body as much as with my arms, and the lower bars help with that. My legs do not do much more than before, but I now have more weight on my wrists and it seems easier to more precisely countersteer. The most noticeable difference is in long, fast sweepers. The bike tracks very stable and true as always, but I now feel more in control. I might be getting more front end feel or it might be because I am more used to this sort of riding position, but I know I felt much more confident in pushing the bike harder.
Vibration is nearly the same. I think the aforementioned change to the end weights will reduce the vibes a bit more, though it really is not significantly different from the standard Versys setup. Because I put more weight on the bars, I noticed vibes moreóbut that could be the different gloves I wore. On the other hand (sic), with the standard Versys handlebar I would get a slight pain in my right thumb heel: This does not happen using the lower bars. My wrists definitely got used more today but I experienced no soreness as I would with a different bike.
A somewhat unexpected bonus was that the new seating position more or less obviates the forward slope of the seat. I did not feel my undies tightening up over the course of today's ride. In fact, it seems as though I can sit in three distinct positions (far, middle, near) with greater effect on handling than before. I attribute that to a more balanced position whereby I push myself back more than before.
I think I will leave the lower bars on for a while. I wanted to lean just a little more forward and have a more natural reach (in terms of height) to the controls and that is what I got. Indeed, I was surprised that I can grip the front brake lever much more effectively. I discovered this when a cager suddenly stopped and turned in front of the car in front of me. Very nice. It all is reduced to feel and comfort. I am willing to sacrifice a little comfort for increased feel, which then translates as more confidence for me. Be mindful that I am relatively short, so using lower handlebars might not produce the same results for you.
The images are not fuzzy because I look fat on the bike, they just came out that way. Geez, I look like a hedgehog or something.