I just tried the reach-in-under-around method and had great results. Had the old bulb out and the new bulb in w/the connector and boot back in place in less than 10 minutes. The important thing in doing it this way is that you have to know exactly how the bulb fits, how it's oriented & how it's held in position before you go in. The dipped light fixtures can educate you on this, since they're much more accessible and visible.
Armed with clean latex gloves to hold the bulb and a visual in your mind of the bulb assembly, you then have to go completely by feel.
I found that by having the access/dash plate removed did give me a bit of a visual and needed access from the top. Coming in from the top with my left hand, and reaching in from the left fairing side was doable by turning the forks a little the right.
With my left hand coming in from the top, the boot was easily pulled off the bezel and lowered out of the way. I then unplugged the bulb connector, and unclipped it from the housing.... all by feel. Using my left hand from the top, I handed the original bulb to my right hand.
With the new bulb in my left hand, I came in from above and used my right hand to guide it into the fixture. I got lucky and the bulb fell into place pretty easily. The fact that it was seated and couldn't spin - and the clips easily locked it down, confirmed that it was seated and properly oriented.
This 'blind' approach explains why the OM says to remove the cockpit. They can't really say to do it all by feel. That really would be an unorthodox thing to have in an owner's manual
I'm glad I tried it this way as opposed to removing that cockpit. You guys are right...it does look like a royal pain.