To change the front shock you must remove the front nose of the bike...to do this you must first remove the side panels....oh... and the tank... must also be unmounted and if not fully removed at least pulled back.
Most plastic has to come off for most things, sometimes the tank (get quick disconnects). Sometimes you can work round the plastic, but when you learn how much the big bits cost, you get the hang of taking it off pretty quick.
The first line in the service manual should read 'Before doing anything serious on your bike, learn to take off the plastic and put it back in the right order'
I've replaced all my fasteners with stainless steel and use a screwdriver handled key. I only have to look at mine and the screws just spin out - 10-15 minutes max, at least 1/2 hour for a BMW dealer, sometimes with screws left out!
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