For comparison, I took the previous generation Ride along. First, I laid them upside down to get a good view of both hulls.
As you can see, the new Ride's (in red) pontoons are a bit thicker and more full, with less negative space between the pontoons and the center keel. This helps increase displacement, which increases capacity. Also, the new Ride is ~2 inches taller than the old Ride, which increases displacement, thereby increasing capacity. The next 2 pictures will show the old Ride's wet cockpit vs the new Ride's dry cockpit, which proves the theory that the new Ride's capacity is much increased. Keep in mind that I weigh 260lbs.
I had about 1.5" of scupper to go before water came into the cockpit. This is excellent news for big boys. The original Ride was a big boy boat, capable of carrying near 300lbs. However, they inexplicably lowered the displacement on the second gen Ride (the "old' orange one in this comparison), which dropped the performance capacity way down to ~230lbs. As you can see, my 260lbs made the old Ride wet, and I had much more water in the rear tankwell. Now, considering my weight and the all the extra room I had before water came in the yak, I'm comfortable with recommending a 300lbs performance capacity. This doesn't really jive with the 2/3's Rule, which calculates a performance capacity of 366lbs, but WS tends to be among the more blatant offenders when it comes to listing max capacities. To get the best idea of a yak's capacity, go paddle it. If there's water in the boat, get a bigger boat.
Next, we have the seating. This seat is the best and worst part of this yak. Before I get into this, let me re-tell a little bit of history. This has not been confirmed by WS, but was confessed by a WS pro boater, so take with a small grain of salt. Supposedly, the 2012 Ride was redesigned at least 3 years ago, before the Commander (If you have a sharp eye, you can see the hull resemblance between the 2 yaks). WS decided to put the 2012 Ride on hold in order to focus on the Commander, ultimately releasing it for 2012.
Now, what puzzles me the most is that the new Ride doesn't have a hi/low seating position. They knew about the concept before the Jackson Coosa came out (and other yaks with hi/low seats like Diablo PaddleSports and KC Kayaks), because the Commander has hi/low seating positions. Then the Coosa came out and turned the fishing kayak industry on its head, with its innovative fishing designs and the hi/low seat. Meanwhile, WS was sitting on the new Ride, watching the marketplace react to the Coosa, and still decided to release the 3 year old design. A very slight modification to the seat sliding rails and the seat wings would have given this yak a seat that you could flip upside down, giving you a higher seating position. In TG's humble opinion, this option alone would have vaulted Ride sales up into Tarpon territory. But WS didn't, and the Ride doesn't, so let's move on and talk about what the Ride does offer.
The current seat, the Freedom Elite Seating System, is an excellent seat. For a big guy like myself, the butt pan was wide and comfortable, and the backrest is much more substantial than the Tarpon Phase-3 seat. All in all, it is very comfortable and supportive. The other unique feature is that the seat will slide forward and backwards. This is a pretty neat design feature that allows you to stand up more comfortably. Take a peek at the pictures below. Picture 1 is with the seat all the way back and picture 2 is with the seat all the way forward.
After paddling this, I want to make a distinction that there is only 1 paddling position for the seat, and that's all the way forward. The yak is only trim with the seat forward, unless you have a massive amount of gear in the front hatch and none in the rear tankwell. Even then, reaching the footpegs would be impossible, because I could barely reach the pegs with the seat all the way back, and I'm 6'6" tall with a 36" inseam. Where the idea of the sliding seat becomes genius is when you want to stand up. In the old Ride, as you can see in the pictures, the flat, standing area was well forward of center, which means you weren't standing at the boat's widest point. The new Ride took care of this by allowing the seat to slide backwards, out of the way, allowing you to stand dead center in the yak.
When standing up, I noticed the difference immediately (note that I'm a bit too heavy for the old Ride, which also contributed to the tippiness). The old Ride wobbled much more, and offered less secondary stability. I was able to cast and float, but I was wobbly, and wasn't too confident in my ability to set the hook on a fish without flying off the yak. On the new Ride, however, there was considerably less wobble, and the secondary stability was much more solid. I felt very comfortable casting, and have no doubts that this would make a very nice fly fishing platform with a small amount of practice.
The performances of the 2 yaks posted similar numbers, although I will note that the new Ride felt more efficient and smooth, probably because it handled my weight much better than the old Ride. I posted GPS figures of 4.5 mph for the old Ride and 4.6 mph for the new Ride. I hit these numbers with a 60 stroke per minute cadence, Epic Active Touring paddle (large blade), and a power that comes from years of paddling and racing. The numbers are an average of 2 upstream trips plus 2 downstream trips. For a more typical paddler, I would reduce my numbers by 25%, and get an old Ride speed of 3.4 mph and a new Ride speed of 3.5 mph. All this math mumbo jumbo just translates into this: the new Ride isn't any faster than the old Ride. However, this is a moot point because the capacity increased dramatically. What we look for in new designs is a balance between increases and decreases. Typically, if a yak gained capacity, it lost speed, but this new Ride doesn't, which is excellent.
One fairly large con of this yak is the weight. On my Hobart scale, the old Ride weighed in at 69 lbs. However, the new Ride tipped the scales at a hefty 82 lbs. This is a very noticeable 13lbs, and puts the new Ride several pounds north of an 18' Wenonah Royalex canoe. This is a substantial amount of weight, so if you plan on carrying it any further than a few feet, by all means invest in a kayak cart.
There are few innovative features other than the sliding seat, most notably the canted center hatch, which allows you easily store a rod in the hull. It still comes with the rail system as with the Tarpon and Commander series.
Overall, the new Ride 135 is an improvement over the previous Ride, and is a very good yak. If you're a big boy, up to ~300 lbs, this is the yak for you. It's stable, fairly efficient, and much much more dry. The seat is a huge improvement over the old Ride, and is very supportive and comfortable. The weight of the yak is a real issue, so be prepared to buy a kayak cart along with the yak.
The 2012 Ride 135 is a very good boat, solid in many areas, and finally returns back to its big boy roots. However, the lack of a hi/low seating position ultimately leaves me wondering "what if."